Campaigns/Elections

Dirty Tricks in Mississippi

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As I've written here before, the most important election next week in Mississippi may be the race for state's Supreme Court justice from the Gulf Coast area (Mississippi Supreme Court justices are elected to 8-year terms).

The incumbent, Oliver Diaz Jr., is the only justice on the state's highest court who has gone on record stating that former Mississippi medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayne ought to be barred from testifying in the state's courts.  He's also one of maybe just two justices on the court who seem to recognize that there are some fundamental problems with Mississippi's criminal justice system.

Two weeks ago, a Springfield, Virginia organization called the Law Enforcement Alliance of America began running a scurrilous, false attack ad saying Diaz "voted for" two "baby killers" and a "man executed for beating a woman to death."

Diaz wasn't even on the court when one of those cases was decided.  In another, he eventually voted  to uphold the conviction and death sentence of an accused murderer—he merely voted to delay the execution until the U.S. Supreme Court issued its own opinion on the constitutionality of the lethal injection.

The third case LEAA mentions in its ad is most aggravating.  It's the case of Jeffrey Havard, which I've written about here on several occasions.  Havard was convicted of killing his girlfriend's daughter based almost entirely on the testimony of discredited medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayne.  Other, far more reputable forensic pathologists have since cast serious doubt on Hayne's testimony in that case.  Diaz should be commended for his votes in Havard's appeal. Because Havard deserves a new trial.

In a state where there have been four exonerations in the last 18 months (including two men wrongly convicted of being "baby killers"), and where mounting, troubling questions about the state's death investigation system suggest there are likely to be many more, LEAA's attack on Diaz is disgraceful—in addition to being out-and-out false.

Comcast agreed to stop running the ad after Mississippi's Special Committee on Judicial Election Campaign Intervention found that it violates the Code of Judicial Conduct.  But the damage may already be done.  The ads have been running for two weeks.

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  1. Elected judges=bad idea.

  2. How many voters do you think make their decision on judges based on more than party affiliation?

  3. Elected judges=bad idea.

    Appointed judges are also a bad idea, because they get appointed by a guy who got elected. There really isn’t a winning solution here.

    “Well, gentlemen, I’ve never seen two people share a resume before.”

  4. In this case, all of them.

    Mississippi Supreme Court elections are non-partisan.

  5. While appointment of judges has its problems as well, it still seems to remove them from politics a bit and works out better. The life terms of most appointed judges helps with this too. They may be political appointees originally, but once installed, they really don’t need to worry about politics or public opinion. I can’t think of any better alternative to appointment for choosing competent judges. Perhaps election to an unlimited term would work.

  6. They shouldn’t elect judges.

    Or District Attorneys either, for that matter.

    Those are professional jobs. You might as well elect the head engineer at the wastewater plant.

  7. “Well, gentlemen, I’ve never seen two people share a resume before.”

    The mail doesn’t stop, Epi!

  8. The mail doesn’t stop, Epi!

    “All right, this is Felix’s pile. He receives for Eric. He receives for Janet. Don’t ever look Janet in the eye because she’s a horrible devil woman.”

  9. Those are professional jobs. You might as well elect the head engineer at the wastewater plant.

    Elitist!!!

    “I don’t speak Latin, but there’s pictures in here, so I think we’re good.”

  10. Those are professional jobs. You might as well elect the head engineer at the wastewater plant.

    I’ve always thought it funny that some jurisdictions have elections for cororner. I like to consider myself a well-informed voter, but how the hell do I decide who’s a better cororner? I can barely decide who to root for when I watch Iron Chef.

    As for DA’s, common folk are probably in a better position to make decisions about crime. AUSA’s are the federal equivalent of DA’s, they’re appointed, and they still give people plenty to gripe about.

    As for judges, if 12 people selected at random from voter rolls are good enough to decide cases, and even nullify the application of a law, why can’t thousands of voters at random select their judges?

  11. I can barely decide who to root for when I watch Iron Chef.

    Seriously? Really?
    The answer is 100% against Bobby Flay and Mario Batali. That’s the really easy part anyway.

  12. The answer is 100% against Bobby Flay and Mario Batali. That’s the really easy part anyway.

    I was watching one time, and the contestants chose Batali. When they revealed the secret ingredient, it was fennel. That’s when I knew Batali was going to destroy them, and he did. The shit he came up with was unbelievable. They just couldn’t compete.

  13. Coroner?

    How does one run for coroner?

    “My opponent claims to be somber, but look at this:” *roll footage of opponent chatting and laughing at a public festival*

    *cut to grim looking man in black suit*

    Sincere. Somber. Smith for Coroner.

  14. Pimps of Rome support Mario Batali and his campaign to put fennel in every pot!

  15. We have elections for County Engineer here in Ohio. Is that rare?

  16. I don’t deny his chef abilities. He’s just an asshat of the highest degree and very condescending.

    “This is what you call basil”

  17. He’s just an asshat of the highest degree and very condescending.

    I’ve worked in restaurants. Those ARE chef abilities.

  18. joe –

    I would argue that there is a good reason to keep electing local prosecutors and judges. As it pertains to prosecutors, they represent the “local people”, so they should be directly answerable to the people they claim to represent. And it’s in keeping with small government principles to allow municipalities to elect their judges because that provides for “mini-federalism”, where different judges in different counties might apply the law in different ways.

  19. I’ve worked in restaurants. Those ARE chef abilities.

    Touch

  20. Ska
    How many voters do you think make their decision on judges based on more than party affiliation?

    Radley Balko -In this case, all of them.

    Mississippi Supreme Court elections are non-partisan.

    Michigan judges are “non-partisan” as well. I imagine that you could legitimately use scare quotes about the situation in Mississippi as well. I haven’t lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for decades and I was never even a registered voter there, so I may be wrong.

  21. TAO,

    Officers of the court’s primary loyalty should be to the the law, not the people.

    Sort of like engineers’ primary loyalty should be to the laws of physics, not the public’s wishes.

    That’s the difference between professional or civil service jobs vs. political jobs. Only the latter are there to represent the people; the former are there to do the job according to the best practices of the profession.

  22. Not to distract from the 30 minute hate for Bobby Flay and Mario Batali, because hate we must, but did anyone check out that LEAA website?

    Those guys are all over the place. On the one side, they support ‘tough judges’ and ‘tough prosecutors’ but on the other side, they’re all about self-defense and the right of citizens to shoot intruders in their homes.

    One of the images shows one of their guys on a cable news show with the splash “Shoot to kill: Homeowners should be able to shoot intruders” One assumes that that doesn’t include the likes of Corey May, Katherine Johnson, or Ryan Frederick.

  23. Officers of the court’s primary loyalty should be to the the law, not the people.

    The people who write the law are elected. The law is just as subject to the whims of the populous as anything else.

    Also, I’m not all that thrilled with the prospect that you have to pretty much recall a governor or start impeachment hearings to get rid of Bumpkin the Capricious Prosecutor.

  24. The Angry Optimist,

    The people who decided to build a bridge, and where, are elected, too.

  25. “”””Mississippi Supreme Court elections are non-partisan.”””

    Uh, yeah, wink, wink.

    Though the process may not be, people know who their red team/blue team members are and they vote accordingly.

    You could take partisanship out of the process, but not the people.

  26. “””I would argue that there is a good reason to keep electing local prosecutors and judges. As it pertains to prosecutors, they represent the “local people”, so they should be directly answerable to the people they claim to represent.””””

    You mean answerable to 51% of the population. That’s the problem with, and the reason we are not a democracy.

    As Ben Franklin said, Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting what’s for lunch.

  27. Don’t worry, there are always ways of reigning in overzealous prosecutors, whether elected or appointed.

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