JACKSON, Miss. — Lawyers working for Mississippi’s attorney general are presenting their case that the prosecutor in the state’s largest county improperly aided a defendant in a drug case.
But attorneys defending Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith are renewing their claims that Smith was targeted after he began investigating the attorney general’s office.
Both sides presented opening arguments Tuesday, local media report, and prosecutors began calling witnesses.
Smith is charged with two counts of conspiring to hinder prosecution of a drug case against Christopher Butler and one count of unlawfully providing advice to Butler, a criminal defendant. Smith’s lawyers said that after Butler was indicted, the district attorney began to believe those charges were a mistake, fearing surveillance video had been tampered with.
The Mississippi attorney general’s office brought charges against Smith last year. In the first trial that started in December and ended in January, a jury could not agree on whether to convict him.
Butler was convicted last week of possession of about four pounds of marijuana in another case handled by Attorney General Jim Hood’s office. The jury in Butler’s case was shown footage of Butler handling drugs, selling drugs, counting large stacks of cash and storing cash. Attorney general’s investigator Lee McDivitt testified Tuesday he had watched hours of recordings and that investigators had not planted drugs in Butler’s home.
Smith’s attorney, Jim Waide, questioned the timeline and authenticity of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics tapes while cross-examining McDivitt.
Gayle Walker, a former district attorney who was fired, testified that Smith paid more attention to Butler’s case than any she had worked on.
“There was no other case,” Walker said. “He didn’t show that level of interest in any other case the entire time I was there. None.”
The state also presented 10 documents, saying the paperwork was filed by Smith to get Butler’s trial continued 10 times over the course of several months.
On July 19, the Mississippi Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Smith, who sought to avoid being tried a second time on the same charges.
Jurors will be sequestered and state attorneys say the trial could last two weeks.