GREENWOOD — A Greenwood doctor charged in a murder-for-hire case is asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to remove a judge appointed to preside over his case.
The Greenwood Commonwealth reports that the latest twist in the case came after Judge Breland Hilburn denied another request to recuse himself and levied sanctions on Smith’s attorney, William Bell.
In Supreme Court documents, Bell asks the justices to replace Hilburn and lift the sanctions. Bell has argued that Hilburn improperly discussed the case with the psychologists examining Dr. Ralph Arnold Smith Jr.
Hilburn imposed unspecified sanctions on Bell for filing frivolous motions.
Hilburn was appointed to hear the criminal and civil cases against Smith after all the Leflore County circuit court judges recused themselves.
Smith has been undergoing a court-ordered mental evaluation at the Mississippi State Hospital since June.
Smith’s criminal and civil cases have been indefinitely postponed.
Smith is charged with murder as the alleged instigator of a plot that ended with the death of gunman Keaira Byrd and the serious wounding Derrick Lacy. Byrd allegedly was hired to kill attorney Lee Abraham, who represented Smith’s ex-wife in their divorce years ago. Abraham was not injured.
Smith is also charged with two counts of conspiring to murder Abraham.
He has been held without bail since his arrest in 2012.
Hilburn has denied previous attempts to remove him from the case.
Bell arguments in court documents that Hilburn discussed the case privately with one of the psychiatrists involved in Smith’s evaluation and with Dr. Roy Lubit, a New York psychiatrist Hilburn would like to bring in to assist with the evaluation.
Bell argues those discussions were improper. Bell also argued that, by seeking out Lubit, Hilburn exhibited bias against Smith.
In denying Bell’s motion, Hilburn wrote that he spoke with Lubit and the doctor at Whitfield in order to select a competent psychiatrist as required by law.