Headlines – 8/5/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 5, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – August 5, 2005

  From the 8/5/05 issue of The Panolian :                    

Green’s bond set at $1 million at testy hearing
By Billy Davis

The case against accused murderer Johnny Green is heading to a Panola County grand jury following a preliminary hearing this week.

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In a 40-minute hearing that played out more like a circuit trial, Green’s bond was set at $1 million by Justice Court Judge James Appleton.

Green, 59, is accused of killing Ricky Taylor II early in the morning of July 23 after picking up the 33-year-old at his home east of Sardis.

Taylor, who was shot twice, was found dead on Old Panola Road.

Green’s attorney, Tony Farese, had requested a $30,000 bond for his client.

Before Appleton ruled on the bond amount, Farese grilled the hearing’s sole witness, Panola Chief Deputy Craig Sheley, for about 25 minutes.

Farese hammered away at Sheley about Green’s jailhouse interviews, using the hearing to build both a self-defense case and a conspiracy case over numerous objections from Assistant District Attorney Robert Kelly.

The county courthouse in Sardis was the beginning of the state’s case against Green, a Sardis bail bondsman whose future is in the hands of Farese, a well-regarded, high profile defense lawyer from Ashland. He practices criminal law with his brother, Steve.

The hearing took place between various justice court cases, which meant a sprinkling of lawyers and ticketed citizens were present for the hearing.

Members of the Green and Taylor families were also present.

In front of the assembled audience, the defense attorney and assistant DA debated Farese’s cross-examination of the chief deputy. At one point in the hearing, both lawyers read aloud state statutes, arguing over the purpose and scope of a preliminary hearing.

Regarding a self-defense motive, Farese asked Sheley about Taylor’s history as a meth user and whether lab results revealed narcotics in his system.

The lab results are pending following work by the crime lab, Sheley said.

Kelly objected to the questioning about Taylor, but Farese explained to Appleton that the use of drugs could have made Taylor the "aggressor" while he was in the vehicle with Green.

"They just can’t take a part of a preliminary hearing so they can ask the court to consider just what they want the court to consider," Farese told Appleton.

In further questioning by Farese, this time on the subject of a possible conspiracy, Sheley disclosed that Green had named a suspected drug dealer, Ricky Nelson, in Taylor’s murder during an interview.

Taylor had once been a confidential informant on Nelson, Sheley testified, acknowledging in part what Taylor’s mother, Barbara Taylor, had previously told a reporter about her son’s past.

The mother said last week, however, that she believes her son was killed over bail money owed to Green.

Nelson is under indictment on drug charges, court testimony revealed, and Taylor was facing a drug-related indictment in DeSoto County.

With that information made public by Sheley, Farese asked the chief deputy if Nelson then had a "motive to harm" Taylor.

Kelly objected to the questioning.

"Mr. Nelson is not charged with killing Mr. Taylor," the assistant district attorney said.

Responding to Kelly, Farese told Appleton that Taylor’s role as "the only state witness" against Nelson pointed toward a "pretty strong motive" for murder.

"Maybe Mr. Nelson should be charged with shooting Mr. Taylor, and that’s what I’m trying to establish," the defense attorney said.

"Mr. Nelson is not charged, so I stand by the objection," Appleton replied from the bench.

Sheley also said, however, that he had investigated Nelson and his alibi for the alleged early-morning killing.

Sheley also testified that Green contradicted himself in three separate interview sessions, at first saying he didn’t know anything about the slaying but later insisting that Taylor had "made a move" and Green shot first, an obvious claim of self-defense.

In the third interview, Sheley said, Green said he took Taylor to Nelson, who then shot him.

"The investigation (about Nelson) was not revealing the facts Mr. Green was saying," Sheley told Farese.

Sheley also testified that a bullet taken from Taylor’s body was a .40 caliber round, the same type used in a Smith and Wesson pistol owned by Green.

The investigation over Taylor’s murder is still ongoing, the chief deputy stressed during his cross-examination.

Entities working to land industry
By John Howell Sr.

The City of Batesville took steps Tuesday to land a new industrial occupant in the building formerly occupied by MOOG automotive in the W. M. Harmon Industrial Park.

Panola Partnership Interim Director Leonard Morris was joined by Panola Industrial Development Authority President Gary Kornegay and North Delta Planning and Development District representative Trey Hamby to describe actions the city needed to take to encourage the prospect to choose Batesville over a Tennessee site also under consideration.

Morris said the prospect would initially employ 80 people and expected the number to rise to 120 within three years.

"This project will be a true team effort involving use of state, county, organizational and federal dollars to make this a viable deal for the community and the company," Morris stated.

The interim director, who is also a state representative, listed funding sources from both the city and county as well as the Panola Partnership, the Industrial Development Authority and Tennessee Valley Authority which will be tapped for the necessary building modifications.

"We need these jobs; there are a lot of people out there hurting; I hear from them every day," Morris said.

Sardis aldermen move to block annexation
By Jason C. Mattox

Sardis leaders are moving forward in their quest to stop the proposed annexation of the Greenhill subdivision.

The Board of Aldermen voted 4-1 to have City Attorney Tommy Shuler draft an ordinance repealing the annexation ordinance adopted by the board in August 2003.

Ward 3 Alderman Mike Wilson voted against the motion at the meeting held last Tuesday night.

In the 2003 motion to adopt the original ordinance, then-Ward 4 Alderman Alvis "Rusty" Dye and Ward 1 Alderman JoJo Still voted against it with former Ward 2 Alderman Harry Dunnigan and former Alderman-at-Large John Reed voting in its favor. Wilson abstained from voting and the tie was broken by former Mayor Richard Darby.

"Last month, the board instructed me to see what it would take to essentially reverse the annexation," Shuler said. "After speaking with the city’s attorney in the case (David O’Donnel), I think I know where we need to go."

Shuler said while the matter was still confusing, the first step was to adopt an ordinance repealing the original annexation ordinance.

"At this point, the matter is on appeal to the State Supreme Court," he said. "They have granted a three day stay on the case to determine what’s next."

Shuler said adopting the new ordinance would put an end to the appeal and would negate the need for a decision from the Supreme Court.

"Once you adopt this new ordinance, the appeal is pretty much dead in the water," he said.

     Momentarily ignoring the offerings of candy, cookies and other snacks behind her, Shelby Drumheller, 5, doodles in the second-story playroom in her family’s home at 3256 Tocowa Road. The two-story French Colonial-style home and adjoining acreage will be auctioned off tomorrow morning. See story page A10.
How deep in horse business does city want to go? Equine decision expected
By John Howell Sr.

"It’s time to look at whether we’re going to pursue the equestrian market," Batesville Civic Center Director Roy Hyde told city officials at their work session Thursday, July 28.

Hyde presented figures of the costs involved and revenue anticipated if city officials should decide that horse shows are a venue that justifies additions to the civic center.

People who participate in horse shows are "not here for one day, they’re here for four or five nights at a stretch," Hyde said.

Batesville’s Mayor and Aldermen held their work session with Hyde at the Civic Center. Expanding the center to accommodate horse shows will include construction of up to 400 stalls at a cost of $400,000 and an outdoor covered arena for $325,000, Hyde said.

The center director said that a three-day horse show would potentially provide expenditures in the community totalling $1.3 million.

"The value is to Batesville’s businesses," Hyde said.

Alderman James Yelton said that his review of monthly tourism tax amounts collected as a three percent sales tax "showed very little increase" during months that center events had occurred since it opened in January.

Hyde made a distinction between spectator events like gun shows and concerts and participatory events where people spend the night in the city as a result of their participation in the center activity.

"Whenever Lee Garner has his horse shows, we see a big increase," Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said. Pounders owns Boonie Mae’s Restaurant.

Garner sponsors shows for cutting horses in his arena west of Batesville. Garner’s shows usually last three days, Pounders said.

"We all agree that we need this; we just have to come up with a way to fund it," Mayor Jerry Autrey said.

"That’s the money-maker; (but) you’ve got to have some up front money to get started," said Alderman James Yelton. "We’re at (maximum) capacity with G. O. (general obligation) bonds.

Assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell agreed.

Other items on the civic center wish list include:

A 60-space recreational vehicle lot with hookups and restroom/shower facilities. The RV lot is required to accommodate equine shows and needed for other shows, Hyde said.
Enclosing the north and south ramps to the facility because of safety and use issues;
Enclosing the staging area to provide all-weather access to the center’s main floor;
Addition of turnstiles, purchase or rental of staging equipment, purchase of additional tables and chairs and the purchase of a used truck.

Incidental benefits that would accompany the expansion would include transit stabling and RV space rentals, Hyde said.

Addition of the outdoor covered arena would create a more affordable rental option for small and local horse shows and would give the center the capacity to produce multiple events simultaneously, Hydes worksheet stated.

The addition could also "increase community support through an open-riding program," according to Hyde.

MDOT will assist cities with cleanup
By Jason C. Mattox

Both the City of Batesville and the City of Sardis have agreed to take part in a work program to clean up areas of state highways located in their city limits.

Courtney Blair of the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) told the Batesville Board of Aldermen the specifics of the program at their meeting Tuesday afternoon.

"I think everyone knows there is a big problem in Panola County," she said. "And that problem is the litter on the roadways."

Blair suggested two separate programs to the city leaders.

The first would allow 21 hours of work by fined workers over three days a week and would pay a supervisor $5 per hour.

The second would allow 28 hours of work by fined workers over a four-day week and would pay a supervisor $10 an hour.

"The city would not be responsible for anything except providing the fined workers and finding a supervisor," she said.

Blair also told Batesville leaders the city could purchase a van to transport the fined workers for $1 from MDOT.

"We will also provide the bags and gloves needed for the clean-up along the highways," she said.

Batesville Alderman Rufus Manley said he felt like it was something the city needed to take part in.

"Look at it like this, it’s not going to cost the city anything," he said.

Sardis Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye pitched the program to Sardis aldermen during their meeting Tuesday night.

"I think this is something we really need to do," he said. "It is going to help us get this town cleaned up."

Ward 1 Alderman JoJo Still said he also felt like the program was a good thing for the city.

"This isn’t going to cost us," he said. "If that’s the case, we really need to get it moving."

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