Is justice served? Sheriff questions recent court verdicts

Published 9:36 am Saturday, October 9, 2021

NATCHEZ — Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten is concerned that justice is not being served in the courtroom in Adams County.

“The last four murder trials that have happened in Adams County have ended with not guilty verdicts,” Patten said. “It is disturbing to me to say the least. I, for one, do not want to see an innocent person go to jail by any means, but I feel like when it comes to Adams County juries these days, jurors are holding law enforcement and prosecutors to a higher standard than the Constitution does.”

Patten is referring to the not guilty verdicts in recent murder trials of Da’Larren White, Kiandas Washington, Jonathan Beach and Arthur Moore.

White was charged with the March 21, 2018, murder of Rodrique Watson, who was killed at the Zipy gas station on Old Washington Road. On Sept. 18, 2020, an Adams County jury found him not guilty of the crime.

In June 2021, an Adams County jury found Washington not guilty of the May 2017 murder of Kelvin Devon Sadler. While was being held in the Adams County Jail in February 2018 accused of another crime, a forensics report connected Washington’s firearm to the gun allegedly used to shoot Sadler.

Jonathan Beach was found not guilty in May 2021 of the murders of March 2019 murders of Jason Haley and Troy Whittington.

And Wednesday night, an Adams County juror found Arthur Moore not guilty in the shooting death of James Henry Williams.

“In several of those cases, the evidence has been overwhelming in the favor of the prosecution,” Patten said.

He said the Kiandas Washington murder trial in June of this year was a prime example.

“This was a slam dunk case,” Patten said. Washington took the stand in his own defense and admitted the gun used to kill Sadler was his, and also admitted to having dropped the gun while running from police officers, he said.

“And the jury still let him go. He admitted to having the weapon that experts determined was used to kill Sadler. He admitted to dropping it when we were chasing after him. You don’t get a case more slam dunk than that,” Patten said.

In the Moore case, Patten said he thinks the mere mention of an alternate scenario by the defense may have given jurors an out for reasonable doubt.

“I think what could have turned this case into the defense’s favor is one thing. The defense asked the jury whether it was possible that during the fight between Moore and Williams’ brother on Rankin Street, that Moore dropped the gun and the deceased’s brother could have picked it up and fired. The evidence didn’t show that. It was just that they planted that seed of doubt.

“Here’s the thing. All of the eye witnesses that testified said only one person had a gun and that was the defendant and only one person shot a gun and that was the defendant. And, he fled for months until we were able to capture him,” Patten said.

The jurors, after delivering their not guilty verdict in the Moore case Wednesday night, were very upset, he said.

“Even though the Arthur Moore trial was a city case, I and several of my deputies stayed there until after 10 p.m. in order to escort jurors to their vehicles. It bothered me to see many of them trembling in fear. Their hands were shaking. Their lips were trembling. One woman was so upset she forgot where she parked her car,” he said. “That leads me to question whether in some way these jurors are being tampered with. I didn’t see any reason for that level of fear from someone who had just offered a not guilty verdict. It was written all over these jurors’ faces how terrified they were. We had deputies there in the event the jurors requested to be escorted to their cars, and all of them requested it.”

Patten said the defense can request a change of venue or ask that jurors be sequestered, “but to my knowledge, the prosecution doesn’t have that luxury. What is it going to take for jurors of this community to set the right tone? I am not advocating for any innocent person to be sent to prison, but when the evidence is overwhelming, a guilty verdict should be issued. There is no justice when jurors are terrified if they issue a guilty verdict.”

He also wonders if the national disdain for law enforcement has spilled over into our community.

“Nationally, we seem to have lost the respect for law enforcement. When you raise your hand and swear to be impartial, don’t just look at the suspect, think about the victim as well. In our recent cases, the victims seem to have been forgotten,” he said. “Do an examination of yourself and ask yourself if you can serve and be fair and impartial. If you can’t, please tell the judge that. That’s the right thing to do for our community.”

Patten also asked that jurors from these four recent murder trials come to talk to him.

“Tell us if we are doing something wrong that we can correct and get it right on the next trial. No matter whose case it is, it affects us all in this community.

“My prayers go out to the victims in these cases. Their moment has passed to seek justice. Even though they are not seeing justice in the courts, I hope people don’t take justice into their own hands.”

Natchez Police Chief Joseph Daughtry did not respond to calls seeking comment for this story.

Sixth District Circuit Court Judge Debra Blackwell, who presided over the Arthur Moore trial, did not respond to calls seeking comment on the not-guilty verdict. 

Ninth District District Attorney Michael Warren, who prosecuted the case against Moore after Sixth District Prosecutor Shameca Collins said the defendant was a relative, was contacted Friday afternoon, but chose not to comment on the not guilty verdict.