A jury on Thursday acquitted a Pascagoula man of a Dec. 20, 2014, attempted robbery at a Moss Point gas station and convenience store, according to the Jackson County Public Defender’s Office.
A grand jury indicted Willie Earl Hill III, 43, as a habitual offender because of prior felony convictions.
According to Hill’s attorney, Jason Payne, Hill had just returned from taking a relative to Lucedale when he ended up at the store late one night.
Because he’s a shrimper, Payne said, he often stayed up late. Hill, he said, went in the store and started talking with the clerk while he was paying for a lighter and gas for his vehicle.
He went back in the store again to continue a conversation he was having with the clerk, he said.
“He had just dropped his daughter off in Lucedale,” Payne said. “He was just killing time.”
Hill, Payne said, was wearing a hooded jacket with a cap on his head in the store, and he also had a large bulge on his left side because of a hernia.
When Hill started talking with the clerk again, Payne said, he mentioned how he would be a whole lot better off if he had all the money in the employee’s cash register.
The clerk, he said, also saw Hill fidgeting with the bulge in his side and thought he might be armed.
Authorities claimed a customer came inside during the incident and intervened to end the robbery attempt.
A video of the incident, Payne said, clearly showed Hill had already walked out of the store when another customer came in.
“This was a case of a misunderstanding that went too far,” Payne said. “If it would have been investigated a little more thoroughly, we think we would not have had to handle it in this matter.”
Payne and Attorney Amanda Galle, both with the Jackson County Public Defender’s Office, defended the case.
Assistant District Attorney Bill Barrett prosecuted the case.
“The rules of evidence and the laws of the state of Mississippi control what evidence is presented in a criminal case,” District Attorney Tony Lawrence said. “I am confident the jury considered the evidence presented during the trial and their verdict was based on that evidence.
The jury returned the verdict shortly before noon Thursday.