Circuit Court

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 30, 2010

Trio of defendants stand before judge on ‘plea day’

By Billy Davis

A trio of Panola County defendants, representing three different criminal cases, took turns entering guilty pleas before a circuit court judge Tuesday.  

Judge Andrew C. Baker, presiding over “plea day” in Batesville, accepted pleas for grand larceny, conspiracy to commit arson, and possession of cocaine, among other court cases.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The criminal court sometimes puts defendants side by side to speed up the process, especially during a lengthy morning of pleas.

Maddie Ann Laws, 18, pleaded guilty to grand larceny.

David Jowers, 29, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge.

Willie Earl Doyle, 39, pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine.

Doyle and Laws were represented by public defender David Walker. Jowers was represented by attorney Jim Franks, though a second attorney stood in for Franks at the plea hearing.

Cocaine charge

Doyle was the passenger in a traffic stop in Batesville when he was arrested in August 2007, Assistant District Attorney Jay Hale told the court.

At the scene, police found 5.85 grams of cocaine, which Doyle admitted was his, Hale said.

Doyle was credited for 21 days in jail and sentenced by Baker to 10 years of post-release probation.

Doyle could have faced a minimum four-year sentence. But the district attorney’s office took into consideration that Doyle had steady employment and was cooperative with authorities, Walker told The Panolian.

“Local law enforcement had made favorable comments about Mr. Doyle, which helped his case,” Walker said.

Stolen purse contained ring

Hale, recalling Laws’ case, said a surveillance video at the Batesville Public Library showed her stealing a purse from a library patron. The purse contained, among other items, a wedding ring valued at $28,000.

“The ring was never recovered,” Hale said, though Laws gave police varying stories about its location.

Laws’ sentencing was postponed. Hale told Baker he wanted to confer with the crime victim before recommending a sentence.

Probation for conspiracy charge  

Jowers, after pleading guilty, received non-adjudication for the conspiracy charge, meaning his case will be dropped after a period of probation.

Hale told the court that Jowers had cooperated with authorities after it was determined the 2009 house fire had been deliberately set.

Jowers was living in the home with homeowners Chip Shirley and wife Veronica Shirley, when the fire was set.

The husband and wife have also pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and received non-adjudication, Hale said.  

The Shirleys have reimbursed almost $80,000 to their insurance carrier, said Hale.