Second trial set for late June

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 10, 2011

NATCHEZ — Round two of a federal trial of two Natchez Police officers will be begin June 20, according to a federal court docket.

U.S. prosecutors and the defense attorneys of Elvis Prater and Dewayne Johnson originally stated their case during a weeklong trial ending March 2, when the jury returned only two verdicts on the eight-count indictment.

A new trial for the remaining six counts was originally scheduled for June 13 but was rescheduled Tuesday for June 20.

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Federal rules of procedure indicate the jury pool can be taken randomly from the Western Division, which includes Natchez or from Mississippi’s entire Southern District.

The jury for the original trial was taken from the Western division of the Southern District, which includes Natchez.

The western division of the Southern District is comprised of mostly counties on the state’s western border as south as Wilkinson County and as north as Yazoo County.

The Southern District includes Jackson — south.

Mississippi has two districts, northern and southern. There are 45 counties in the Southern District and eight counties in the western division of the Southern District.

The base of the jury pool is determined on a case-by-case basis, according to federal rules of procedure.

Juries can and have been pooled from outside of the division where the case is tried in the past because of publicity involved in the case. For example, the jury was pooled from the six most southern counties — the southern division — in the Southern District for the 2009 trial of Jackson Mayor Frank Melton.

Judge David Bramlette accepted a partial verdict March 2 for the two counts for which the jury was able to agree.

Elvis Prater was acquitted of count 1, the beating of James Daniel — known as Daniel — Ellard, and officer Johnson was found guilty of count 4, the theft of Jason Ellard’s credit cards.

Johnson will receive his sentence on count 4 July 18.

The following are the remaining counts to be retried in June:

• Count 5 alleges Johnson conspired with Patricia Wilson and others to commit at least one of the following offenses: identity theft; credit card fraud; or bank fraud.

• Count 6 alleges Prater made false statements to the FBI about his whereabouts after he placed Daniel in a holding cell and that he observed Jason’s injuries — a swollen eye and bleeding from the mouth — at the scene of Jason’s arrest.

• Count 7 alleges Johnson made false statements to the FBI on June 2, 2009, and June 3, 2009, including: Jason was bleeding and had a swollen eye at the scene of his arrest; Johnson did not take Jason’s credit cards; and that Jason was injured as a result of hitting the pavement after being Tased.

• Count 8 alleges Johnson made false statements to the FBI Sept. 29, 2009, including: Jason’s injuries were caused falling face first onto the ground and being Tased; that Johnson did not know anything about Jason’s missing credit cards; and that Johnson did not know how Wilson got Jason’s credit card.