More From Mississippi.
The Jackson Free Press wrote up the Innocence Project’s move for Dr. Hayne’s medical license. But the article also includes some info about Cedric Willis, the third exoneration in Mississippi this year–one we haven’t heard nearly as much about.
Exonerated Jacksonian Cedric Willis spoke to the audience about spending 12 years behind bars, nine of them in Parchman, for a murder he did not commit—even as Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter made no move to exonerate him during those years he spent wrongfully serving time, despite the existence of evidence that could clear him.
“He had a motion on my freedom for years, and I never got a response from him. The judge had a right to say, ‘this is not right,’” Willis said, earlier questioning how DeLaughter could “sleep at night” knowing he’d sent an innocent man to rot in prison.
DeLaughter was the assistant district attorney at the time, working under District Attorney Ed Peters, who prosecuted Willis. Judge Breland Hilburn was the judge in the Willis case; neither he, DeLaughter or Peters pushed to allow DNA evidence and witness testimony that could have proved Willis innocent. The real killer remains at large.
So the judge who heard most of Willis’ appeals was an assistant DA in the office that prosecuted him. Lovely. Oh, and then there’s this:
DeLaughter is currently under investigation for allegedly taking bribes from Peters, on behalf of attorney Dickie Scruggs, to influence cases. The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance recently suspended DeLaughter from the bench while the federal investigation continues.
This is worth noting, too:
“When Cedric Willis was prosecuted, the state of Mississippi knew full well that they had an innocent man,” Maw said. “This was not a case where the prosecutor thought he maybe had a weak case but … went ahead with the prosecution with some reservations.”
Maw added: “They knew outright that Cedric Willis did not commit this crime and they said so themselves in the newspapers—then they willingly kept out evidence that would have proved him innocent, and they let him sit in jail.”
“They should be punished for that and probably never will be because state law says that if the prosecutor does something wrong they have almost absolute immunity.”
It’s way past time to start rethinking absolute prosecutorial immunity.
The problem is, that won’t do any good. There’s already a law on the books that applies in cases like this:
If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or
If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured -
They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death
Title 18, Part I, Chapter 13, Section 241 US Code
Under this law, Judge DeLaughter should be facing life in prison or the death penalty. But this law will never be applied, any more than any changes to prosecutorial immunity would be, because these are the people who apply them. They don’t prosecute each other any more than cops arrest each other.