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Witness says video key to prosecutor’s case wasn’t altered

A witness Wednesday refuting claims that someone tampered with a video recording key to a criminal case against the prosecutor in Mississippi’s largest county.

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith is charged with hindering prosecution and illegally advising a defendant.

Video expert James Griffin testified that — contrary to Smith’s claims that someone altered a video of the defendant’s house — he saw no evidence that any part of the recording had been deleted or altered.

The drug defendant, Christopher Butler, was convicted of marijuana possession last week using the same video and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Smith believed Butler had been set up and that officers had planted the marijuana. Defense lawyers read past testimony from Assistant District Attorney Jamie McBride and former District Attorney Faye Peterson in which they both said they thought someone planted the drugs, local media reported.

An undercover Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agent told the jury that Butler admitted after he was arrested that the four bags of marijuana belonged to him.

Also testifying was Ivon Johnson, a former assistant district attorney who has pleaded guilty to conspiring to accept a bribe in exchange for getting bail amounts reduced.

Johnson said Smith wouldn’t let anyone else work on Butler’s case, and was the person who originated the tampering theory, but couldn’t find the video evidence to support the idea that Butler had been framed.

“I believe Mr. Smith was the one floating that around, that it couldn’t be accessed because something had happened to it,” Johnson testified.

Johnson testified Smith wanted to indict a circuit judge and two assistant attorneys general for blocking him from dismissing Butler’s charges.

Judge Larry Powers urged prosecutors from Attorney General Jim Hood’s office to speed up testimony for the benefit of jurors, who are being sequestered away from their families. Powers told the assistant attorneys general that he could exclude witnesses or evidence if necessary.

In a first trial ending in January, a jury couldn’t agree on convicting or acquitting Smith.


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