JACKSON, Miss. — The Mississippi Supreme Court has dissolved a circuit judge’s order that had blocked Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith from handling grand jury proceedings while under criminal investigation.
Smith argued that his constitutional right to due process was violated by Circuit Judge Jeff Weill’s order in June.
In a ruling signed Wednesday and released Thursday, seven members of the Supreme Court agreed.
“It is elementary that procedural due process requires, at a minimum, notice and a ‘meaningful opportunity to be heard.’ And it is undisputed that District Attorney Smith was provided neither here,” the justices wrote.
Justice Jim Kitchens did not participate in the ruling. In a separate opinion, Justice Mike Randolph agreed that due process was denied, but said Smith should have asked the judge to reconsider his own order.
“He fails to show that he sought relief from the trial court,” Randolph wrote. “It is a longstanding maxim that we ‘will not hold a trial court in error for issues not presented to it for consideration.'”
Smith was indicted Sept. 7 on two felony counts of conspiring to prevent the prosecution of a man facing drug charges, and one misdemeanor count of illegally advising the same man, Christopher Butler. Smith has pleaded not guilty.
Assistant District Attorney Jamie McBride also was indicted for hindering prosecution and has pleaded not guilty.
The attorney general’s office went to a Hinds County grand jury to get the indictments against Smith and McBride.
Smith and McBride argue that Attorney General Jim Hood has no legal authority to present a case to a grand jury or prosecute a case in Hinds County without authorization from the governor or Smith. However, state law authorizes the attorney general to proceed on his own in at least some cases.