Miss. accused do time for years with no indictment for a crime


Miss. accused do time for years with no indictment for a crime

Octavious Burks has been in the Scott County Jail since Nov. 18, 2013. Joshua Bassett has been there since Jan. 16, 2014.A grand jury has yet to indict either man.
They are far from alone. In jails across the state, some are held behind bars more than a year without ever being indicted.
“This is another poor man’s curse in Mississippi,” said J. Cliff Johnson, director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law. “It sounds like something that happens in a Third World country.”

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi and the MacArthur Justice Center filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of these men against Scott County officials, saying the men have been “indefinitely denied counsel.”
These are far from isolated incidents, said State Defender Leslie Lee. “Nobody is advocating for these people. Nobody is investigating these cases.”

Mississippi is the only state in the Southeast without a statewide public defender system and one of only seven states in the U.S. without such a system.
“There are so many crucial things a lawyer needs to be doing, way before indictment,” Lee said.
But under Mississippi law, a lawyer isn’t appointed for an indigent defendant until that person has been arraigned on a grand jury indictment.

Under the current system, “our office has no jurisdiction over county public defenders, other than educating them,” Lee said. “We have really upped our training, but our problem is it’s not mandatory.”
With a public defender’s system, she said a public defender in each county could monitor the list of those being held in jail and make sure no one falls between the cracks.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans rebuilt its public defender system, making it possible for a lawyer to represent a defendant after arrest, she said.

This hardly needs comment.
It’s bad policy even from a law-enforcement perspective. If you wait a year to indict someone (and even longer to trial) the victim may drop the complaint, witnesses may become unavailable, evidence lost resulting in fewer convictions or better (for the defendant) plea deals.

Thanks for the link.:thumbsup:

That’s totally barbaric!

An unfair system for the crime victims as well as the arrested.

I thought that Constitutionally people couldn’t be held for more than a very few days (48 hours? 72?) without being 1charged with a crime?

This violates our very constitution. And Mississippi is not the only place this rubbish goes on at. People need to start getting worried about this kind of thing. There is no excuse for it.

By warrant, that is at least the case in Georgia, and an indictment does not really do much more to safe guard one until trial. If a warrant or indictment is not brought in that time, you must be released from confinement. An indictment is just a charging instrument that will be used at the trial itself to perfect the language and nature of charges possibly already brought against you by warrant.

Indeed, if there is no immediate indictment, the charges brought against you will very shortly come before a Magistrate judge for a preliminary hearing. The likelihood of charges being dismissed there are far more probable than before a grand jury as opposing counsel is going to be involved (where they are only so involved in a grand jury when it is a public official/police officer). Finally, even if the Magistrate Judge finds probable cause for the charges and denies bond, one is entitled to a bond within 90 days of the arrest if there is no indictment.

It is unfortunate our system moves so slow (due to many factors; ironically including obsession with perfecting trial rights of defendants), but to make a fuss about a lack of indictment is rather silly as it does not add much more of a safeguard from the procedures already in place. In fact, in Georgia at least, a defendant would probably prefer no indictment is ever brought since this may preclude you from having a felony arrest expunged if you subsequently plea to a misdemeanor.

It is not just Mississippi! It is our entire country! It is called “indefinite detention”. Our right to a trial ( and even our right to be charged with a crime before incarceration ) no longer exists!!

Wasn’t “indefinite detention” an invention of the Patriot Act ?


Does indefinite detention apply in the case of those arrested on US territory? Those arrested for crimes unrelated to terrorism? My understanding of indefinite detention is that it applies to combatants who are not identifiably connected with any military or paramilitary (resistance) who were fighting against our military.

Constitutional case law states if a person is arrested WITHOUT a warrant, a probable cause determination/arraignment must take place within 48 hours, weekends do not extend this 48.

If arrested with a warrant some states due to overload may extend that to 72, state arraignment laws differ, but still must conform to the 4th AM.

IF no charge is “formally” brought within that time period, then the detainee must be released. On another note, there is no such thing in this country as taking a person in for “questioning/investigative detention” simply to build a case, probable cause must exist, period.

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