Deadlocked Jury

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 28, 2010

Assistant DA will seek new trial after jurors deadlock

By Billy Davis

A circuit jury deadlocked Tuesday over a woman’s alleged role in helping her boyfriend escape from the Panola County jail.

The jury deadlocked in the case of Latonia Katrice Fletcher, 28, who was facing a charge of aiding and abetting Taurus Milan in an escape on June 27, 2007.

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Milan was found dead later that night, north of the jail grounds, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  

Authorities alleged at the time that Fletcher met Milan about 9 p.m. near the grounds of the jail and drove him away.

A juror told The Panolian the jury deadlocked 8-4 to convict Fletcher before giving up.

Assistant District Attorney Jay Hale, reached after the trial, told The Panolian he intended to retry Fletcher in July, the next term of court in the Second District.

“The bottom line was that jurors felt sorry for her,” said the juror, pointing to when defense attorney Kirk Willingham said in closing arguments that Fletcher faced prison time if convicted.

A court official seconded the juror’s account, saying Judge Jimmy McClure sustained Hale’s objection to Willingham’s comments.

Attorneys’ comments about sentencing are not permitted in circuit court proceedings.

Hale would not comment on the proceedings, citing a new trial.

Willingham could not be reached at his office in Batesville Thursday morning.

Jurors were seated Monday at the county courthouse in Batesville, with McClure presiding.

The jury deliberated late Monday, failed to reach a verdict, then returned Tuesday and voted again after more deliberation, according to the juror.

“We, the jury, are deadlocked,” reads the yellow legal paper, now in Fletcher’s court file, that jurors sent to McClure.

Taurus Milan, who was serving time for grand larceny, worked as a trusty at the jail. On the night of the escape, he was found shot to death near Brasher Road, located north of the jail. The death was ruled a suicide following an autopsy and investigation by the Miss. Bureau of Investigations.

Jail inmates, interviewed after the shooting, told investigators that Milan had seemed upset days before the incident. He believed Fletcher was going to break off their relationship, inmates said.

Fletcher had picked Milan up in a cornfield, then drove to a nearby road to have sex, she told investigators. When an argument broke out, Milan attempted to cut Fletcher with a razor blade and shot her in the arm.

Milan cut hair at the jail and had access to the razor, according to court records.  The automatic pistol belonged to Fletcher.

A trusty who was interviewed said Milan had escaped numerous times from the jail property.