JACKSON, Miss.–Throwing public defender Michele Harris out of court and finding her and PD Greg Spore in contempt of court may have consequences for Hinds County Judge Jeff Weill. Cong. Bennie Thompson has asked the U.S. Dept. of Justice to get involved and investigate Weill, saying he may have violated the U.S. Constitution.
“The public defender service was created to give indigent defendants a fighting chance against their accusers. Indigent defendants have a constitutional right to counsel by competent attorneys. Judge Weill’s decision to transfer these defendants’ cases to less-experienced private attorneys is a clear bias against the public defender service,” said Thompson in a letter he wrote to U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder. He made the letter public.
Thompson accused Weill of refusing to provide PDs with arraignment dockets and refusing to recuse himself from cases involving attorneys that he has worked with before and may have demonstrated a bias against.
“Ultimately, by refusing to recuse himself from the cases handled by the Hinds County Public Defender’s Office, Judge Jeff Weill is violating the constitutional rights of many individuals who appear in his court,” said Thompson’s letter.
Thompson said he believes that the 6th Amendment gives indigent people the right to be represented by counsel and that Weill’s actions violate that amendment.
“I hope that the Department of Justice will fully investigate the events occurring in Hinds County, and step in to assure that everyone’s rights, regardless of affluence, are being protected,” said Thompson.
Weill has not commented publicly about the accusations.