Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Rest of the Story: Magnolia Edition

Magnolia Mayor Anthony Witherspoon caused a bit of a controversy recently when he allegedly screamed at and shoved a Magnolia Gazette reporter.  Earlier post.  This is not the first time the Mayor has been accused of having an anger problem.  The reporter should be thankful the Mayor only shoved him as Witherspoon was convicted of manslaughter after he shot his first cousin in the back 27 years ago.

The Magnolia Mayor readily admits to his manslaughter conviction and uses it to fight to gain voting rights for convicted felons. The Jackson Free Press referred to his conviction in one article:

Anthony Witherspoon calls it "divine intervention." Others might call it luck. The second-term mayor of Magnolia, Miss., learned quickly how state laws can disenfranchise and significantly alter a person's life, all depending on what crimes they have committed.

Witherspoon, who is black, was convicted of manslaughter in 1992 after shooting a man "in self-defense" after having six or seven rounds fired at him, he says today. The Mississippi Supreme Court rejected two lower court rulings that he was guilty of murder, and ultimately a jury convicted him of manslaughter, and he drew a 20-year prison sentence. Witherspoon stayed out of prison for four years on an appeal bond and then served six years in state prison. Article.
That is the story Witherspoon likes to tell reporters as he pals around with NAACP Chief Derrick Johnson.  However, the articles leave out a few important facts that question whether manslaughter was the proper verdict.

The McComb Enterprise-Journal reported on April 23, 1992 that 22 year-old Witherspoon shot his first cousin, Trennis Daniels, in the back and in the wrist.  The two cousins got into a fight.  The newspaper reported Witherspoon allegedly "went home and got a handgun."  Daniels allegedly fired back at Witherspoon before succumbing to his injuries.


The grand jury indicted Witherspoon for murder.


Witnesses testified the two men and others were drinking beer in the middle of the afternoon.  The cousins got into a fight that was pretty nasty.  Daniels bit Witherspoon's ear.   Daniels pulled a gun on Witherspoon.  Daniels lowered the gun and his cousin left.  However, Witherspoon was not done for the day but returned thirty minutes later with his father, a popular preacher in the area and a former Magnolia alderman.

Witnesses said Witherspoon brandished a .32 pistol and shot Daniels in the wrist.  Daniels ran but stumbled.  Witherspoon shot him in the back at close range and then ran.  Daniels chased him and fired several rounds that missed.  He collapsed and died in the emergency room.  Witherspoon's attorney, Wayne Dowdy, pointed out several conflicts in witness accounts.  However, a pathologist testified Daniels was shot in the back and wrist while a Mississippi Crime Lab witness showed Daniel's shirt with a hole in the back.  Dowdy claimed Daniels was beating Witherspoon and reaching for his 9mm pistol when he was shot.

Circuit Judge Keith Starrett presided over the trial.  He is now a federal judge. 

November 4, 1992

Witherspoon's father denied warning his son not to shoot his cousin although a policeman said the father told him at the scene he warned his son.  Witherspoon the Younger took the stand and said he came back to the scene of the fight to get someone to take him to the hospital.  He said Daniels jumped up when he saw him as his handgun fell off his lap. Daniels allegedly reached for the pistol.  Witherspoon said he reached into his car, grabbed his gun, and fired at Daniels.    Prosecutors pointed out the wound in the back and said it was not a "defensive wound."

Dowdy said Witherspoon had every right to fire at Daniels. 

The jury deliberated 75 minutes before convicting Witherspoon of manslaughter, rejecting the murder charge.

November 5, 1992


Witherspoon was sentenced to serve 20 years in prison but five years was suspended.  The Mississippi Court of Appeals gave the convict a brief glimmer of hope when it ruled in 1998 after Judge Starrett improperly denied the testimony of a witness produced by Witherspoon after his trial. 

Witherspoon claimed a female witness would testify another man fired the fatal round at Daniels.  Judge Starrett said at trial that the witness "has a history of being in court and has testified in several other criminal trials on behalf of other defendants."  Witherspoon never tried to use her testimony at his first trial. She claimed the defense did not know of her testimony because she fled the state after the shooting.  The Court ordered Judge Starrett to consider her testimony in deciding whether to grant a new trial.  




Judge Starrett heard the new testimony but denied the motion for a new trial.  The Court of Appeals upheld his decision.   Judge Tyree Irving issued the opinion for a unanimous court.   He pointed out her testimony was directly contradicted by numerous witnesses.

Witherspoon served five years of his sentence before MDOC granted him earned supervised release.  His probation ended in 2007.  Mississippi exempts manslaughter from a list of felonies that disqualifies one from serving as a public official. 



16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jackson may be poorly run but at least they don’t have a murder as mayor.

Anonymous said...

Word on the street from those who've had to deal with this Mayor, is not only is he a murderer but a thief and crook as well. Stole work product from companies then enriched his friends with it for those projects. He had Dowdy as his city attorney then too. Crooks everywhere.

Anonymous said...

So this NAACP Chief Derrick Johnson best friend The Mayor a gang shooter?

Anonymous said...

3:13 and 3:31: this man is not a "murderer!" He was only convicted of manslaughter. And a first offense at that. Knowing this, I would feel so much better if I lived in Magnolia, knowing that the mayor isn't a murderer, but just a manslaughterer.

Anonymous said...

" Witnesses testified the two men and others were drinking beer in the middle of the afternoon. The cousins got into a fight that was pretty nasty. Daniels bit Witherspoon's ear.

Over the years . . . I've drank mid afternoon beer with my cousins too.

We even had a few disagreements.

But never did we shoot each other . . . much less bite each other's ears.

Anonymous said...

SO what code statue in the Mississippi Law allow

Anonymous said...

Please tell what Mississippi Law allow a convicted felon to run for office ?

Anonymous said...

Article 4, Section 4 of the Mississippi Constitution: (1) No person shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature, or to any office of profit or trust, who shall have been convicted of bribery, perjury, or other infamous crime; and any person who shall have been convicted of giving or offering, directly, or indirectly, any bribe to procure his election or appointment, and any person who shall give or offer any bribe to procure the election or appointment of any person to office, shall, on conviction thereof, be disqualified from holding any office of profit or trust under the laws of this state.

Miss. Code Ann. Section 1-3-19: The term “infamous crime,” when used in any statute, shall mean offenses punished with death or confinement in the penitentiary.

Anonymous said...

The other cousin's probably helped get him elected.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone qualified to run for Mayor of Magnolia that is not a felon?

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time, Magnolia was the best kept secret in Pike County.

Not anymore.

Summit is now the only municipality in Pike County that shows promise.

Moreover, McComb has sadly disintegrated into a small Jackson.

Anonymous said...

And his wife is a state senator - sounds to me like she needs to ditch him.

Anonymous said...

How is manslaughter not an "infamous" crime? Might other shenanigans be at work here? Do those shenanigans extend to the state house?

Anonymous said...

Is this the Mississippi Criminal Justice Reform Model for our future ? If so , more detail work is necessary. Second chance is needed but starting off as a Mayor of a municipal is another.

Anonymous said...

Summit, MS is one election away from the outhouse. Pike County is being destroyed by idiot democratic leaders. Gang violence is on the rise. Somebody really needs to research the Mccomb Police Dept destruction. Defund the police started in Mccomb long before it went national. There were only 30% of the staff recently. 4 police chiefs in 2 years.

Anonymous said...

https://venezuelanalysis.com/video/13878

Is this Mayor is glorifying a socialist Regime towards the end of this video?

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