Man pleads not guilty to murder

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 16, 2001

VIDALIA, La. – Stephen Jackson pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of first-degree murder and aggravated arson in connection with the May 28 death of a Concordia Parish woman.

Autopsy results showed that Linda Merritt McClanahan, 54, of 127 Donald Drive, was beaten with a blunt instrument and stabbed several times before the trailer in which she was living was set on fire, apparently to cover up the crime.

Jackson, 34, of 133 Donald Drive in Vidalia, was subsequently arrested and charged in connection with McClanahan’s death.

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Attorney Clive Stafford Smith entered the plea on behalf of his client during a Wednesday arraignment in Seventh Judicial District Court before Judge Leo Boothe.

But Boothe refused a request by Smith to continue a preliminary hearing in Jackson’s case, noting that a grand jury has already determined that there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial.

The first part of the preliminary hearing was held July 11 and was due to be continued on Wednesday. The purpose of such a hearing is to determine what evidence exists that the defendant committed the crimes, Assistant District Attorney Ronnie McMillin.

But on July 26, a grand jury indicted Jackson on the murder and arson charges and, in doing so, said that there is enough evidence against Jackson for a trial to be held.

&uot;The indictment makes it (the preliminary hearing) moot,&uot; McMillin said.

Smith, on the other hand, argued that when Jackson signed a form stating that he understood his Miranda rights, the form stated that Jackson was entitled to a preliminary hearing.

&uot;He was promised by the state that right,&uot; Smith said.

But Boothe decided not to continue the preliminary hearing, saying that he understood that &uot;the court can discontinue (such a hearing) if probable cause is established&uot;&160;by a grand jury.