Monday, May 31, 2021

Attorney Asks Judge to Withdraw Sanctions

Attorney John Hall, II asked Madison County Circuit Judge Steve Ratcliff to reconsider after the judge fined him $3,804 in a recent trial. 

A Madison County grand jury indicted massage therapist Elecius Franklin for sexual battery in 2019.  The case went to trial on May 5, 2021. Mr. Hall represented the defendant. Judge Ratcliff declared a mistrial after Mr. Hall repeatedly argued with the Court and improperly addressed the jury.  The Court ruled: 

During the course of said trial, defense counsel, John Curtis Hall, II repeatedly argued with the Court's  ulings on a number of the state's objections, directly addressed the jury in response to objections and was frequently disrespectful to the Court to such a degree  as  to  cause  irreparable  prejudice  to  the  proceedings.  The  Court  is  given  considerable discretion in determining whether a mistrial is warranted since it is in the best position to measure prejudicial effect.  Upon hearing the state's motion and the defendant's response, this Court having considered all circumstances held that there was a manifest necessity for a mistrial.

 Mr. Hall filed a motion to reconsider and set aside the imposition of the costs on May 24. The attorney argued his conduct did not rise to the level of sanctionable behavior.  He claims the following exchange precipitated the mistrial motion: 

MR. HALL: Isn't it likely that when she put her underwear back on after
receiving a full body massage --
MS. MOULDS: Your Honor, I'm going to object to the likelihood. That -- MR. HALL: Can I finish my
MS. MOULDS: No. That is not a scientific question. That is a possibility question, and that is not
MR. HALL: Because they're scared of the answer, Judge. MS. MOULDS: Oh, my -- objection.
THE COURT: Hey, hey.

MS. MOULDS: Oh, my gosh!
(Tr. 2-3)

 He argued he was directing his answer to the Court and not the jury.   Mr. Hall said he was not arguing with the Court but was defending his client.  The exchange at the bench was described as "intense at best" and not "disrespectful."  There was no yelling or cursing. The motion charges the Court could not have been that aggrieved because it proceeded with the trial instead of immediately declaring a mistrial. The attorney alleges Judge Ratcliff became agitated, raised his voice, and used a curse word.

Mr. Hall took strong exception to this statement by the Court when it declared a mistrial:

We also had some, what I consider to be, very inflammatory remarks by defense counsel, by Mr. Hall, to this Court. Quite frankly, some of them were in front of the jury. There were some that were not. They were just sidebars without the jury. I can tell you this. I have absolutely in my term in ten years sitting behind the bench never been treated as disrespectful as I was today.  I came close to sanctioning Mr. Hall. I did not do it,  but the last one, the objection  that the State made and  the comment that he made toward the jury about the reason that they don't want this answer to come out is because they don't want to hear what it is and they don't want you to hear what it is, that was totally out of line.  And I think that there is a manifest necessity here to grant the mistrial, and I'm going to assess, also, jury costs to Mr.Hall in this case. A mistrial will be granted. (Tr. 28)

The attorney claims the transcript lacks any inflammatory remarks.  It is said the best defense is the best offense and Mr. Hall followed that old adage halfway through his motion.  He accused the prosecutors of misconduct as they constantly interrupted witnesses and made improper comments before the Court.  

Judge Ratcliff reset the trial for September 13. 

Kingfish note: Mr. Hall also whines that this website published the actual fine.  The mistrial order did not state what the actual juriy costs would be.  He states in a motion to show cause: 

The Court signed the Order in question on May 13, 2021, and an invoice outlining the jury costs was transmitted on Mississippi MEC on May 17, 2021 at 2:13 p.m. by the Madison County Circuit Clerk. (Exb. “C”).   However, a local political opinion blogging website posted about the fact that jury costs were assessed in this case, as well as the amount of said costs at 8:59 a.m., over five hours before the Madison County transmitted the actual invoice.  (See Exb. “D”).   The Court is requested to inquire as to how a third party was privy to this “sealed” information several hours prior to its official release to the attorneys involved.
There is no protective order regarding the jury costs in the docket.



Anonymous said...

Knowing the court and John, I trust John. I've referred clients to him and would have him represent me. I practice in Madison County, and while his style isn't the norm here, he's a smart lawyer, a zealous advocate, and respectful of the position the judge is in.

Pay up and move on said...

I gave the utmost respect for Judge Ratcliff. Always a fair and level-headed judge whenever I appear in his courtroom. Just pay the fine and stop embarrassing yourself

Anonymous said...

Hall should’ve asked to approach the bench & stated his concerns out of the jury’s hearing. His experience just shows he knew better.

Anonymous said...

@10:49am - Thanks for stopping by John.

Anonymous said...

Is the lawyer representing himself?

Anonymous said...

I don't know anything about this but LOVE this blog and news site. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I read some of the comments on this blog in Perry Masons voice and others in Matlocks!! 😂

Anonymous said...

What's interesting is that in asking his question, the ADA objected. Mr. Hall says can I finish my question. The ADA, not the judge says no. That's not the way this works. The Court should have intervened and ask the ADA to state the basis of her objection and gave the attorney a chance to respond. The ADA has no authority to tell a defense attorney they cant ask a question. In some of these districts, the prosecutors have way too much authority and when a defense attorney challenges it, it's a problem.

Anonymous said...

4:09, to your point, the encounter made me wonder if the trial had other skirmishes. I try civil cases but have wondered if DAs get a pass often. Anyone care to comment?

Kingfish said...

A shame the entire transcript wasn't included. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Way out of line, and I've practiced 38 years.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that John has practiced for a long time in Hinds County and won numerous verdicts. One can see where he would get carried away, but then he ran into a Madison County judge where that shit doesn’t get a blessing. Guess you can’t put a Bible reader in the front row Johnny.

Anonymous said...

It’s totally inappropriate to argue that an objection was made solely because the question called for an answer that would be unfavorable. It’s basically accusing the other side of bad faith, and setting oneself up for a favorable inference, regardless of the merits of the objection and the actual answer to the question. That’s the kind of argument I would expect in a dysfunctional family squabble, not a court of law.

Anonymous said...

10:31 - Yet that's the kind of comment you hear every day in closing arguments. It's called influencing the jury. Nothing improper about it. and 4:09 is absolutely correct - Why would any judge let a lawyer tell another lawyer he could not finish the question and then go into detail as to why? Da Jurdge employed a bit of selective indignation. Maybe he should have said, "I call bullshit!"

Anonymous said...

Kingfish, read your blog a lot, but why haven't you posted about Courtney Rainey's case being overturned?

Anonymous said...

DAs often get a pass. They work in the same building and appear before the Judges frequently whereas defense attorneys do not.

Anonymous said...

A lot of Monday arm chair quarterbacking from a bunch of folks who’ve never tried on shoes let alone tried a case.

Anonymous said...

7:15: Closing arguments are different from examination of witnesses. I figured that was obvious, but obviously not.

11:20: It isn't "Monday" yet if the controversy is still live, as this one is, thanks to the post-trial motion.

Anonymous said...

He was found not guilty by a jury at trial this week. Looks like his attorneys did a great job.

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