High court declines attempt to re-jail man accused in death
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A three-judge panel of the Mississippi Supreme Court on Tuesday denied an attempt to keep a man accused of murder in jail.
The panel turned down the request Tuesday by Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, finding instead that Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green acted in accordance with state rules meant to keep people from sitting in jail indefinitely.
“After due consideration, the panel finds that the district attorney has had four-and-a-half months in which to present this matter to the Hinds County grand jury,” Presiding Justice James Kitchens wrote. “The panel finds that Judge Green’s actions are ... reasonable and appropriate.”
In question is the January release of Nicholas Coats, who had been jailed without bail on charges that he shot and killed a woman at a Jackson traffic light in August. The death of Chelsie Lynn Kirschten was a high-profile case, and police needed almost two weeks before they arrested Coats and 19-year-old Lidarious Dixon.
Smith said his office is supposed to get a chance to object to the release of jailed prisoners, but said it wasn’t notified that Circuit Judge William Skinner intended to release Coats.
Smith asked Green, the senior circuit judge, to hold a hearing to re-jail Coats after reporters asked him about the man’s release. Green, though, declined, instead suggesting that Smith should call back grand jurors who last met earlier in January and indicted Coats. Smith then appealed to the Supreme Court, asking justices to force Green to hold the hearing.
Smith said he’s not ready to indict because Jackson police didn’t turn the investigative file over to him until Jan. 22. The next Hinds County grand jury isn’t scheduled to meet until April, although previous grand jurors could be recalled before then.
The ruling comes after justices last year issued new rules of criminal procedure that in part emphasized that judges should do more to make sure people who haven’t been convicted of crimes don’t spend long stretches in county jails.
Green and Smith have clashed in the past, with Green trying in 2016 to block Smith from using a grand jury to indict employees of Attorney General Jim Hood, part of a power struggle that led to Smith’s indictment on charges that he was hindering prosecution of an accused drug dealer. Smith was acquitted in August after an earlier trial ended in a hung jury.
Dixon, accused of the same crime, remains jailed in Hinds County.
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