Harrison County

Grand jury says law enforcement should present evidence clearly

A Harrison County grand jury has recommended that law enforcement agencies present evidence in criminal cases in a clear manner.

The recommendation comes from a final report dated March 14 from grand jurors who served a six-month term. The term began in September in the Gulfport division of Harrison County Circuit Court. The division handles felony cases filed in Gulfport, Long Beach, Pass Christian and northwest Harrison County.

The report does not identify a particular law enforcement agency, but said evidence should be gathered “as effectively as possible” and presented to the grand jury in “a precise and chronological manner.”

Patrol officers and criminal investigators compile reports and other documents in the course of their work. They often are called to court to testify as well.

The grand jury was in session 21 days. Jurors visited the juvenile detention center and children’s shelter. They also toured the county jail, where the sheriff and his staff gave them a briefing and they had lunch with the sheriff, the report said.

The jury considered 583 cases and found sufficient evidence to indict in 415 cases, including 36 in which defendants were deemed to be habitual offenders and 32 qualifying for enhanced penalties.

The grand jury found insufficient evidence to return indictments in 123 cases.

Grand jury reports give no details on specific cases or law enforcement agencies.

A total of 23 cases were returned to law enforcement agencies for further investigation and eight cases were found to have been docketed in error. Thirteen cases were passed to the next grand jury. Also, the grand jury issued a partial report that cleared Jackson County deputies of wrongdoing in a fatal shooting in D’Iberville on Oct. 24, 2016.

The county facilities they toured were in good order, the report said.

The grand jury recommended safety and environmental improvements at the county jail, such as replacing glass broken by inmates and repairing electronics problems. Sheriff Troy Peterson has agreed those improvements are needed.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews