Friday, November 13, 2009

Recusal issue to be heard this afternoon

While Bobby DeLaughter is being sentenced in Aberdeen, his replacement, Judge Malcolm Harrison, will be hearing argument on the recusal issue mentioned here a few weeks ago.  It's my understanding that the State will have no response to the defense motion to recuse.  It's also my understanding that Judge Harrison has indicated privately that he feels he has no conflict, and will not recuse. 

There's a case directly on point here.  In Jenkins v. State, the trial judge had been county prosecuting attorney at the time of the defendant's indictment.  570 So.2d 1191 (Miss. 1990).  Even though the prosecutor/judge stated that he had no recollection of any involvement in Jenkins' preliminary hearing or in the presentation of the matter to the grand jury, the MSSC held that recusal was mandatory.  Citing an opinion reversing a case in which a grand juror went on to become a petit juror, the MSSC said:
We do not think it right and now condemn any practice whereby the accuser may also be the trier of fact. Jenkins at 1192, citing Hood v. State, 523 So.2d 302, 311 (Miss.1988). (Emphasis original to the Jenkins opinion.)
Our state follows an objective test to determine whether or not a judge should recuse himself, and that test is whether "a reasonable person, knowing all the circumstances, would harbor doubts about his impartiality." Rutland v. Pridgen, 493 So.2d 952, 954 (Miss.1986). See also, In Re Moffett, 556 So.2d 723, 725 (Miss.1990), and Jenkins v. Forrest County General Hospital, 542 So.2d 1180, 1181 (Miss.1988).  Applying the objective test to the issue at hand, I don't see how recusal isn't mandated.  We'll see this afternoon whether or not Judge Harrison agrees with me.

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