Recently, my partner Merrida and I tried a domestic violence case in which an ex-wife accused her ex-husband of assaulting her. Although the charge was a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is a year in jail and of course the stigma of being convicted of domestic violence. And a guilty verdict would have given the ex-wife leverage in the ongoing custody battle over their two kids. In short, the stakes were very high.
During the trial, the State called three (3) witnesses: the police officer who took a statement from the ex-wife, the ex-wife, and the ex-wife's step-daughter. The police officer testified that the ex-wife came in and wanted to make a statement about what just occurred between she and her ex-husband. The officer took down her statement. On cross examination, I asked the officer about certain things the ex-wife had told him which he included in the statement. I knew these things to be false. The officer testified that he took down exactly what the lady told him.
When the ex-wife testified, I asked her on cross examination about some of the statements she told the police officer. She denied saying these things to the police officer. Amazingly, the prosecutor came back on redirect examination and asked the ex-wife about the statements in the police report. The ex-wife again stated that she never told the police officer what was contained in his report.
The ex-wife had essentially called the police officer a liar. The police officer had, as they say, "no dog in the hunt". He was a disinterested third party who simply was doing his job when he wrote up the report. The ex-wife had severely impacted her own credibility when she testified that the police officer's report was incorrect.
At the end of the State's case, we asked the court to throw out the case because the State had not proven the essential elements of the case. The Court agreed and dismissed the case. Happy ending for our client, right? Well, not exactly.
The ex-wife had filed additional charges on our client in another court. We had not known about these charges even though they had been filed for several months. As a result of these new charges, our client was held in custody until we could transport him to the jail and have him processed. The trial date on those new charges has not been set. Stay tuned.
In Mississippi, any person can go to a court clerk and file charges against another person. There is no requirement that a judge review the charges before an arrest warrant is issued. This flawed procedure is ripe for abuse and needs to be overhauled. In Mississippi, it is against the law to file a false police report accusing a person of a crime. A person is subject to a year in jail for filing such false charges. Judges is Mississippi need to enforce this law to prohibit ex-spouses, ex-best friends, irritated neighbors, etc., from filing bogus criminal charges. The criminal justice system should not be used to settle petty disagreements.
Charles R. "Chuck" Mullins has been defending Mississippi citizens for almost 18 years. Learn more about Chuck at the Coxwell & Associates website.