Friday, July 15, 2011

Steve Simpson, character witness for an accused child rapist

This week's brouhaha over the light sentence Republican Attorney General nominee Stephen Simpson gave accused priest murderer Jeremy Wayne Manieri for child molestation has drawn all sorts of media attention. It has also brought to light another incident from Simpson's time on the bench.

In 2003, Stephen Simpson, while serving as a circuit court judge, testified as a character witness for a buddy of his who was standing trial in Biloxi for raping and sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl. The girl babysat the defendant's daughter, and the defendant was the girl's softball coach. According to the Sun Herald, the girl alleged that the defendant had raped her multiple times.

So then-Judge Simpson was called by the defense to speak on the accused man’s behalf. (Which, by the way, according to Code of Judicial Conduct, probably should have been prohibited by the presiding judge in the case because of Simpson's potential influence as a sitting judge. More on that below.) Despite the girl’s testimony, in which she stated that her coach had sex with her at his home after asking, “Do you want to get this over with?”, and a taped phone conversation in which the man abruptly changed the subject of their relationship – a Harrison County jury found him not guilty after six hours of deliberation. Can't help but wonder if Simpson’s appearance on the stand influenced those jurors. (Sun Herald articles here.)

If you don't believe me that a sitting judge can perhaps unfairly influence a jury when testifying as a character witness, then you might believe Mississippi's Code of Judicial Conduct. The Commentary to Canon 2(B) of the Code of Judicial Conduct reads in pertinent part as follows:
A judge must not testify voluntarily as a character witness because to do so may lend the prestige of the judicial office in support of the party for whom the judge testifies. Moreover, when a judge testifies as a witness, a lawyer who regularly appears before the judge may be placed in the awkward position of cross-examining the judge. A judge may, however, testify when properly summoned. Except in unusual circumstances where the demands of justice require, a judge should discourage a party from requiring the judge to testify as a character witness.

For those keeping score at home, that's the Edna Mae Sanders case (unanimous reversal for not allowing an abused woman to put on her defense to murder), the John Ruble incident (Simpson skirting a judge's order by springing his buddy from the jail on domestic abuse charges), the light sentence for a child molester who later killed a priest, and now this. Anyone noticing a pattern?


MelBrooks said...

This is getting ridiculous. This guy has no business running for any elected office much less Attorney General. He has a clear history of disrespecting women and disrespecting the law. If we know about this I am scared to think about what he is hiding.

mississippi citizen said...

How did that Garth Brooks song go: "I've got friends in low places..." Who knew it was about Steve Simpson!