Criminal charges in Mississippi are always serious. If you are indicted never underestimate the aggressive tactics and strategy that law enforcement and prosecutors will go to get a conviction in any case.
Today at approximately 2:00 p.m. a Madison County Jury returned a “Not Guilty” verdict for Ms. Latosha T. Smith. Ms. Smith was indicted by a Madison County Grand Jury for unlawfully committing a hoax against the City of Madison Water Department. According to the prosecution Latosha T. Smith dropped a plain envelope with her water bill and a check in the City of Madison Water Department Drop Box. When City of Madison employees recovered the envelope and opened it at the water department, they noticed a grey-white powdery substance in the envelope. The supervisor was notified who in turn called the authorities. The Madison Police Department notified additional Federal and State authorities. Responding to the water department were the Home Land Security, F.B.I. and U.S. Postal Investigators. Water employees who had handled the envelope were quarantined and held in a secure location until a field test was run to determine whether the substance was harmful. The results of the preliminary field test was negative but the sample was sent to the Miss. Department of Health for a further analysis.
The Indictment alleged that Ms. Smith unlawfully by placed a substance in the envelope with the intent to make the water department believe it had been subjected to a biological hazard. The Assistant District Attorneys who prosecuted Ms. Smith introduced evidence from State and Federal Authorities on the dangers of hoaxes and introduced evidence that Ms. Smith had her water disconnected on two occasions prior to the incident. According to the Assistant District Attorney, Ms. Smith had a “motive” to get even with the Madison Water Department for disconnecting her water. Mr Yoder argued that the amount of the powder in the envelope was such that it could not have been an accident and was done with the intent to commit a hoax against the Madison Water Department.
The Jury deliberated approximately 45 minutes before rejecting the prosecutor’s arguments. Merrida Coxwell and Chuck Mullins, attorneys for Latosha Smith argued that the powdery substance was left in the envelope by accident or mistake, and the amount was not so great that a person would even notice it in an envelope. During the trial to illustrate his point, attorney Coxwell opened up a powdery aspirin and placed it in an envelope, using it to demonstrate how effortlessly someone could fail to see a powder in the envelope. During closing argument attorney Coxwell stated to the jury, ” if a person did not know that they had done something that others believed was wrong, how would the person charged defend themselves.” Coxwell used this to illustrate why Ms. Smith had no explanation for the powder in her envelope. Ms. Smith did not testify.
Coxwell stated after, “I did everything in my power to show the Assistant District Attorneys that there was no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Smith ever intended to scare anyone at the Madison Water Department but my voice fell on deaf ears. Maybe they heard the verdict .”
Merrida Coxwell is the managing partner of Coxwell & Associates. He has over 29 years of legal experience defending people and helping people who are seriously hurt.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.