PASCAGOULA -- Jackson County circuit judges have asked that a special judge be appointed to hear the perjury case pending against former Jackson County sheriff's Lt. Ken McClenic, court records show.
All three judges -- Kathy King Jackson, Dale Harkey and Robert Krebs -- signed off on the order to recuse themselves from hearing evidence in the case against McClenic. The judges often presided over trials in which McClenic was a witness.
McClenic, 51, was indicted in January on the felony charge that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. McClenic, a deputy since 1985, was terminated from the Sheriff's Office immediately after he was served his indictment.
He testified before a grand jury in July, testimony that resulted in former Sheriff Mike Byrd being indicted on one felony charge each of intimidating an officer in the discharge of his duties and tampering with a witness.
The charges accused Byrd of pressuring McClenic to make an arrest in a murder so Byrd could say he had no unsolved murders in his campaign for re-election in 2007.
McClenic told the grand jury Byrd ordered him to sign an affidavit for the arrest of Robert McKee on a charge of murder though McClenic told the grand jury he did not believe McKee had committed the crime.
In September, during a hearing in an unrelated case challenging McClenic's credibility as a witness, McClenic backed off his testimony, saying he had "refreshed" his memory about what had occurred.
McClenic then said he believed he had obtained the affidavit to arrest the man on the murder charge because the man had confessed and provided details about the crime no one else had.
He said then he did feel pressure to make an arrest in the case, but he felt pressure to make an arrest in any case he worked.
Prior to testifying before the grand jury, McClenic said he had suffered from "stress and anxiety and sleepless nights" and may have gotten his grand jury testimony confused.
McClenic did admit it was Byrd who had him reopen the murder investigation shortly before he obtained the affidavit.
After McClenic changed his testimony, Krebs ordered all of McClenic's grand jury testimony in July, along with any exhibits and McClenic's testimony at the hearing in September, turned over to the Attorney General's Office to investigate. McClenic is accused of perjuring himself before the grand jury.
The attorney general's Public Integrity Division investigated the case.
McClenic's attorney, Calvin Taylor, said in an earlier interview McClenic knew the indictment was coming for "a while."
"He is actually doing well," Taylor said of his client in January. "He's got his family around him. You know, I think he's ready to confront this and tackle it. I think he's glad it's here. I hope people keep an open mind and wait until it all comes out. Give him a fair shake. We are going to defend him and the truth will come out. I think Ken is going to be fine."
A Jackson County grand jury indicted Byrd, a four-term sheriff, in August on 29 felony charges and two misdemeanor offenses. In a plea deal with the state, he pleaded guilty to an amended charge of intimidating a witness in connection with a July 2012 shooting at the office of the Narcotics Task Force.
Byrd has also pleaded guilty to federal felony charge of witness tampering. As part of that plea, he admitted to twice kicking a man in the groin who had stolen a Jackson County patrol car.
Byrd is scheduled for sentencing in both the state and federal case in March.