Will sealed records involving Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith finally see the light of day today? Special Judge Larry Robert will hold a hearing at 1:00 PM today in the Hinds County courthouse to on several motions filed by the Clarion-Ledger to open files, transcripts, and other sealed records.
Jeff Amy reported for the AP today:
The American justice system requires trials to be open to the public. But so far, secrecy shrouds the legal maneuvering that could lead to a criminal trial where the defendant is the top prosecutor in Mississippi’s largest county. Citizens can’t understand the full story of the problems because at least five cases regarding Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith are under seal....
The Clarion-Ledger has sued to have the cases opened, saying those who closed the files didn’t give notice, hold a public hearing, explain why the filed were closed or consider alternatives. All those are required under past Supreme Court decisions.
Waide has also filed motions to open parts of cases, saying Smith believes the files and transcripts have evidence that would exonerate him. Rest of article.The cases are State v. Christopher Butler (2 cases), State v. Donald Turner, State v. Robert Shuler Smith, and Administrative Orders for Judge Jeff Weill's court. Mr. Smith filed a motion Friday to unseal case #25ci1:16-cv-00220. JJ would love to tell you about this case but it is under seal. No hearing was held on the sealing of the case as required by Gannett v. Hand. That Mississippi Supreme Court opinion requires the court to hold a hearing on sealing a case after providing a 24-hour notice of the intent to hold such a hearing.
However, Mr. Smith attached a letter from Judge Weill to the Mississippi Bar to his motion. The letter is a bar complaint filed against Mr. Smith (It is loosely called a bar complaint. It is rather a notice of alleged improper behavior to the Mississippi Bar.). The letter (p.10) states:
Pursuant to our phone conversation a few weeks ago, enclosed please find supporting documentation concerning violations of Mississippi law and the Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct by Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith. Pursuant to Miss. · Code Ann. §97-11-3, a district attorney who "shall, in any manner, consult, advise, counsel, or defend, within this state, a person charged with a crime or misdemeanor or the breach of a penal statute, he shall, on conviction, be fined in a sum not exceeding five hundred dollars, be removed from office, and rendered incapable thereafter of filling any office of profit or honor in this state." Id. One of Mr. Smith's former clients from his private practice, Donald Turner, was recently indicted by the Mississippi Office of the Attorney General. During a sealed hearing, Smith admitted to a conflict of interest and stated no objection to the case being investigated by the Attorney General. Thereafter, the Hinds County Grand Jury returned two separate indictments against Turner, which remain pending as Hinds County cause numbers 16-0-238 and 16-0-239. Recently, on June 10, 2016, Turner's counsel, Mr. Dennis Sweet, filed two motions on Turner's behalf, which attached confidential e-mails regarding issues of grand jury secrecy, which were printed from Mr. Smith's county email account, as is evident from the header of the e-mails, a clear violation of Miss. Code Ann.§ 97~11-3. The motions and exhibits are attached hereto as "Exhibit A."
In another matter, on May 11, 2016, Mr. Smith appeared in my chambers area at the courthouse, where access is restricted to my staff members and the staff of Judge Winston Kidd. Mr. Smith was not authorized to be in the restricted area, and after my clerk answered a loud banging on her door, she opened the door to Mr. Smith, several DA staff members, an armed DA investigator, and a WJTV news crew. He was seeking the immediate return the cell phone of his administrative assistant which was taken up earlier that day by my bailiff after it rang during the closing argument of a capital murder trial. Mr. Smith was instructed to leave the area several times by my clerk, and then by me, but he continued to refuse. W JTV did not air the footage of the incident and declined to provide a copy upon request. However, they agreed to preserve the footage, and I urge you to request the same to aid your investigation.
Subsequently on May 1 1, 2016, Mr. Smith sent two threatening text messages to my personal cell phone regarding the actions taken by my bailiff earlier that day. Copies of those text messages are attached hereto as "Exhibit B."...
Thus it appears a third judge has filed a bar complaint against the District Attorney. The hearing should be rather interesting today. Stay tuned.
Kingfish note: WJTV committed journalistic malpractice. WJTV had a decent story and spiked it? The question is why did WJTV spike the story. Better yet, is this an example of why WJTV never wins the ratings? Can one imagine WLBT or WAPT spiking this story or not broadcasting the footage?
Prediction. JJ predicts Judge Roberts will order several cases and documents to be unsealed today. However, it will not be surprising if he rules the entire "investigation and report" by Special Master Amy Whitten is allowed to remain under seal. The public records laws exempts investigative reports. Judge Roberts will likely rule Judge Whitten's report falls under this exemption.