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State’s criminal justice system is a mess, needs fixing

Yet another recently released Mississippi Department of Corrections inmate is the main suspect in yet another violent crime.

Gerry Byrd was released in March this year after serving only a portion of his 25-year sentence for burglary on a plea deal in 2013 to reduce the charge from armed robbery to burglary.

Now, Byrd is the main suspect in a Tuesday morning case in which he is believed to have shot a woman he was traveling with in a vehicle on I-110 in Baton Rouge and thrown her out of the car before fleeing north.

The victim was later found wandering with a gunshot wound beside the interstate and taken to a hospital with what was believed to be a non-life-threatening injury. When Byrd arrived in Woodville, police said, he nearly crashed through the front doors of a convenience store before entering the store brandishing two guns and slapping the clerk around.

When a police officer arrived, the officer said Byrd moved toward him so the officer shot Byrd, who was airlifted to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.

That was the second such case of a recently released MDOC inmate in one week. Last Sunday, Marvin Anthony Watson, who was under MDOC probation for a 2014 manslaughter conviction in an Adams County nightclub shooting death of a man, is the main suspect in the shooting deaths of a woman and her son in Clayton, Louisiana.

Watson had his attorney contact law enforcement in Adams County to turn himself in.

Speculation is Watson knew he could get a shorter sentence in Mississippi where prison crowding and a backlog of cases at the Mississippi State Crime Lab cripple investigations and lead to plea deals for lesser crimes and shorter sentences for which perpetrators serve only a percentage of the reduced time.

It is past time for the Mississippi Legislature to fix the criminal justice system in Mississippi that has become a revolving door that not only returns convicted criminals to the community to commit more crimes but also hamstrings law enforcement and prosecutors from being able to get convictions.

Fix this mess, state lawmakers.