Thursday, September 3, 2009

Excuse me, did you say a TANK?!?!?!?!!?!?

The Jackson Free Press did some great investigative reporting in the Delta over the past few weeks concerning what must have been an eerie scene. I'm stunned over this one:

"I heard (Tallahatchie County Prosecutor John) Whitten telling the guy in the Jeep with him that he was going to go back and get his tank...."

And yes, this is the same John Whitten who got in trouble back in 1995 for the incident described in Whitten v. Cox. 799 So.2d 1 (Miss. 2000). Here's an excerpt from that opinion:

The plaintiffs claim that Whitten pointed the cocked pistol directly at them, waving it in their faces, shouting, cursing, and ordering them out of the truck and onto the ground. Cox claims that Whitten pressed the barrel of the gun to Cox's temple and told Cox he ought to kill him or “kick his fucking face in” for being on the runway. Whitten denies pointing the gun at anyone, though it is undisputed that he was armed, that his friends standing around were armed with loaded assault rifles and that Whitten ordered the plaintiffs to kneel on the ground. Once they were out of the truck, Whitten informed all three that they were under arrest for trespass. One of Whitten's sons who was present brought some handcuffs from a nearby vehicle.

The Judicial Performance Commission got after him as well, since he was a Municipal Judge at the time. Here's how the Mississippi Supreme Court described his actions before reprimanding him in Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance v. Whitten, 687 So.2d 744 (Miss.1997):

During these proceedings and that time period covered by the formal complaint in this cause, Judge John W. Whitten, III, was and is the Municipal Judge for Oakland, Tutwiler and Webb, Mississippi municipalities.

The basis of the three formal complaints against Judge Whitten stem from the same set of facts which occurred on the same day and time but involved three separate individuals.

Judge Whitten appeared before the hearing panel without legal counsel, representing himself, and Wyatt Collins represented the Commission on Judicial Performance.

On or about March 19, 1995, Cox, Spinosa and Logan drove onto a tract of land being farmed and leased by Cox's brother, whom Randy Cox was helping with the operation.

Judge John W. Whitten, III, with the assistance of several friends, stopped at gun point the vehicle in which Cox, Spinosa and Logan were riding. Not only was Judge Whitten armed with a loaded pistol but so were his friends who assisted him.

Judge Whitten stopped the vehicle on his neighbor's property, in which he admits to having no lawful interest. Judge Whitten avers some form of easement in an alleged landing strip which is on the neighbor's property.

Judge Whitten fired several shots to stop the vehicle in which Cox, Spinosa and Logan were riding. The direction in which said shots were fired by Judge Whitten remains in dispute. The panel did find, however, by Judge Whitten's own testimony, that he did in fact eventually shoot out a tire on the vehicle causing it to come to a stop.

After the vehicle was stopped, Cox, Spinosa and Logan were removed from the vehicle at gunpoint and under Judge Whitten's specific orders and demand.

Judge Whitten, not recognizing any of the complainants after they were removed from the vehicle, ordered them on the ground. The orders again were under threat of loaded weapons, which both Judge Whitten and his associates were carrying. The complainants were detained for an undetermined period of time, and Judge Whitten made threats of serious bodily harm and possible death while he made inquiry concerning their identities*746 and reasons for being on his neighbor's property and his alleged air field or landing strip.

While on the ground, handcuffs were placed on the complainant, Cox, by order of Judge Whitten, who continued his inquiry under threat of bodily harm with his loaded weapon in hand.

The three complainants were then escorted, under armed guard, from the property where they had been stopped, across the road on to Judge Whitten's private property where he keeps some form of camp and firing range. There the complainants reached an agreement with Judge Whitten to leave the premises if no one would file any charges against Judge Whitten for the so-called misunderstanding which had occurred.

During the entire incident described, Judge Whitten acted as if in charge. He was giving orders and commands to his associates and orders to the complainants, while holding a loaded pistol which he discharged numerous times, including shooting out the tire on Cox's vehicle.

All of the above actions were directed by Judge Whitten under threat of loaded weapons and with the use of handcuffs and the assistance of associates who also carried loaded weapons and acted under Judge Whitten's command.

It is disputed whether any of the weapons were actually aimed at the three complainants or fired in their direction, but there is no dispute that the weapons were present and some were fired.

I'm sure we'll here more about this one as time goes on. Any Delta readers heard anything?


lawalisonkelly said...

Ahhhh... the Whitten legacy... scary...

Below is an excerpt from Wiki about John Whitten's father who was the Milam defense counsel in the Emmett Till trial...

"Defense attorney, John Whitten, rose to make his closing statement. 'Your fathers will turn over in their graves if these men are found guilty, and I’m sure that every last Anglo-Saxon one of you has the courage to free these men even in the face of the pressure being brought on you.'
After deliberating for just a bit more than an hour, the jury returned an acquittal. 'They failed to prove the identity of the body,' the jury foreman would later explain."

Kingfish said...

any relation to Jamie or Amy? I'm not up on N Mississippi and Delta family connections.