I previously reported that Holmes County Circuit Judge Jannie Lewis dismissed the extortion case against Mississippi Highway Patrol Trooper Sgt. Johnny Delaney. Following the dismissal, District Attorney James Powell made good on his threat to appeal the dismissal to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
According to the Supreme Court’s docket, the trial court record was filed on December 7, 2009, and the Court issued a briefing schedule on the same day. The briefing schedule sets the deadlines for the State to file its principal brief, and for the defense to file Sgt. Delaney’s brief. The schedule also sets a deadline for the State to file a reply brief in response to the arguments made by the defense.
At this pace, it will likely be 12-18 months before the Court rules on the State’s appeal. This is the usual speed with which cases proceed through the appellate process. Meanwhile, Sgt. Delaney is left to wonder what his future holds.
I find this very unusual case disturbing for a number of reasons. My primary beef with this whole affair has nothing to do with the State, the prosecutors, the Courts, or even the law itself. My problem is with the pathetically sorry manner in which the Mississippi Highway Patrol (MHP) has treated Sgt. Delaney since the inception of this case. The Clarion-Ledger previously reported that MHP suspended Delaney without pay when the charges were first levied. That’s right–Delaney was suspended without pay even though he has been convicted of nothing. For months, Sgt. Delaney has been deprived of his ability to earn a living, even though no proof has been brought forward that he committed a crime. In the eyes of the law, Delaney is cloaked in the presumption of innocence, yet MHP is treating him as though he is already guilty. From my point of view, that is a deplorable and patently disloyal way to treat a man who is supposedly a member of the MHP family.
And what kind of message does this action send to other Troopers? The message is loud and clear: If you write somebody a speeding ticket, and they get pissed off and accuse you of committing a crime, you’re on your own. And not only are you on your own, you can’t feed your family until you prove yourself innocent.
I deal with Mississippi State Troopers frequently. They are always on the other side of my cases, and I go after them–hard. Despite this adversarial relationship, I firmly believe that rank-and-file Mississippi Troopers are among the finest law enforcement officers in the nation. No matter how contentious the case, or how heated the cross-examination, the Troopers I’ve been up against have been professional, intelligent, honest and courteous. These guys put it on the line every day, and do a damn good job in service to the people of Mississippi. They deserve better than to be shunned by MHP brass when some malcontent makes unsubstantiated allegations of misconduct.
MHP should stop the disgraceful practice of suspending Troopers without pay based upon unproven allegations. If loyalty is too much to ask of MHP, how about this: Wait until misconduct is actually proven before you punish the officer. You know, the whole “presumed innocent” thing. Ever heard of it?
Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer Curt Crowley