Jackson County Sheriff Remains Free

Jackson County Sheriff Remains Free

Posted: Updated:
PASCAGOULA, Miss. -

One of the issues in this case is whether any contact with these witnesses is intimidation because he is essentially their boss; the judge ruled in this case it's not enough to put him in jail.  Sheriff Mike Byrd once again dressed in civilian clothes today and has his back turned to the courtroom to avoid cameras. 

This afternoon prosecutor Tony Lawrence called a series of witnesses today---all of whom were asked to talk to witnesses in the indictment against Byrd.  Mary Wanda Smith works in the courthouse and is the mother-in-law of a witness. She said the sheriff told her to tell her son in law he loves him and loves his family.

Nicky Powell is the father of another witness--he says Byrd told him he love the Powell family.  Powell testified the sheriff came to him the following day and complimented his new trailer.  The state argued these were implied threats.  The prosecutor said the sheriff's badge comes with intimidation-

The most important person that counts as to whether or not that's true is the judge and he didn't think so,” says defense lawyer Joe Sam Owen.  Judge William Coleman agreed the sheriff shouldn't have contacted witnesses--but argued the law shows that contact has to be to influence witness testimony.  The judge ruled the sheriff's contact--mostly through third parties-- wasn't intimidation even though witnesses were uncomfortable enough to call the district attorney and complain.  The District Attorney declined comment for this story. 

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