County prosecutor wants AG off case

The state investigation into deaths at a north Mississippi hospice has been so compromised that the attorney general’s office should step aside and let local officials take over, a county prosecuting attorney said Thursday.

Attorney General Jim Hood said that won’t happen and his case is solid.

Two state investigators spent months looking into 11 deaths at Sanctuary Hospice House in Tupelo only to be forced to resign by Hood in the middle of the grand jury hearings.

The investigators, Don Scott and Susan Harkins, say they plan to sue Hood, claiming they were wrongly accused of urging grand jury witnesses to leak information to The Associated Press.

Furthermore, the investigators claim Hood is bowing to political pressure and is purposely trying to botch the investigation because powerful people support the hospice.

Hood denies the allegations and says he has proof the investigators violated grand jury secrecy rules. And, Hood said, he won’t be influenced by anyone.

Lee County Prosecuting Attorney James D. Moore said Thursday that “members of the community have no faith in this investigation.”

“I think the attorney general is in a dilemma to the extent that if he continues with the prosecution of this case he’s going to have to rely on investigators that he’s fired and who are threatening legal action against him,” Moore said.

Hood said in an e-mail to the AP that “more political pressure has been applied in this case in an attempt to improperly derail a prosecution than I have seen in my 17 years as a prosecutor.”

“This case is not about the Hospice or about the actions of former employees of the Office of Attorney General,” Hood said. “It is about practicing medicine without a license.”

Further complicating the case is that several relatives of the alleged victims were furious that their loved ones were used to bring criminal charges. They say their relatives received outstanding care at the facility.

“You’ve got quite a number of the alleged victims in this case who say they were never contacted and don’t even think there was a crime,” Moore said.

Sun Herald
5/8/8