Two Prisoners in Mississippi County Still Awaiting Trial after 6 and 7 Years

Sunday, April 20, 2014
Marktain Kilpatrick Simmons

Two Mississippi prisoners with known mental health issues have been held in a county jail for years awaiting trials, and county officials are putting the blame for the problem on defense attorneys.


Marktain Kilpatrick Simmons, 43, was jailed in November 2006 for the stabbing death of Christopher Joiner and yet his case has not yet gone to trial. Hinds County Judge Bill Gowan denied bail for Simmons, saying he wanted to hear more evidence of Simmons’ mental problems, according to The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.


Similarly, Lee Vernel Knight, 47, has been in jail without trial since December 2007, accused in the Christmas Day stabbing death of his brother, Michael Palmer. Knight, who has been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, had previously been committed to the state hospital. Gowan ordered Knight committed to the state hospital in 2013, but there have been no beds available there.


Six other inmates have been in the Hinds County jail for more than four years. Sixteen have been there more than three years. There are 75 inmates who have been incarcerated without trial for more than two years, and 29 for more than a year, according to The Clarion-Ledger.


District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith puts the onus for getting inmates to trial on their defense attorneys. “First of all they need adequate representation, and secondly they need someone who can give a mental evaluation that's final and conclusive, because we can't prosecute someone if they do not have a final mental evaluation or the results of that evaluation,” Smith said. “So someone who's just there waiting for their mental evaluation is something that the defense attorney has to bring to the attention of the court and to our attention. We don't know whether or not the person has that mental illness conclusively until we receive the medical information from the defense attorney.”


The wait was too long for one inmate. Markuieze Sherod Bennett, 23, was killed by blunt-force trauma in a jail riot last month. He’d been held in the facility since March 2012 without going to trial on the robbery charge against him.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Raymond Inmates Jailed For Years Without Trial (by Therese Apel, Jackson Clarion-Ledger)

Most People in U.S. Jails have not yet been Tried (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)



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