In his state trial, the mayor’s defense team called witnesses who said the duplex was a “crack house” and had been a problem in the neighborhood for years.
“I think the federal prosecutors are intent on keeping that door shut this time and I think the mayor is trying hard to open it,” said Matt Steffey, a Mississippi College law professor.
Steffey said he expects U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Jordan to rule somewhere in the middle – allowing some, but not all, information about drugs and crime.
A judge has issued a gag order for all people involved in the case until after the trial.
Last month, federal prosecutors filed a series of motions asking the court to keep comments about drugs and crime out of the trial. They argued the information would encourage the jury to base its decision on information outside the facts of the case.
“Evidence that drugs were used or sold in or around 1305 Ridgeway Street prior to Aug. 26, 2006, does not have any bearing on whether there was some legal basis … for the defendants to enter the home, let alone destroy it,” the motion says.
Wright plead guilty last week to a related misdemeanor conspiracy charge and agreed to assist prosecutors.
The federal government is alleging that Melton and Recio violated the civil rights of Evans Welch, who was renting the duplex, and Jennifer Sutton, the owner of the home. They say members of Melton’s entourage entered the duplex without a search warrant while others took to the duplex with sledgehammers. They say Melton joined them, using a large stick.
On Tuesday, Melton’s attorney, John Reeves, filed a motion arguing information about the alleged drug activity was key to showing why Melton was on Ridgeway Street that night.
“Since it is vital to the defense to show a lawful basis to be present at (the duplex), evidence of alleged drug and illegal activity at and around that address is relevant and necessary,” the motion says.
Reeves also filed five signed affidavits that describe crime and drug use at and around the duplex.
The statements are from:
Christopher Walker, a former gang member with convictions for possession of cocaine, manslaughter and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He is on probation.
Daniel Smith, a former drug dealer with three convictions for possession of cocaine. Melton became his legal guardian in 1985.
Michael Taylor, who is at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility on extortion charges. Melton has said Taylor was with him the night in question. He also used to live at the mayor’s Jackson home.
Faye Davis Head, whose son was killed near Ridgeway Street in 1995. She said her son, Rickey, was killed by a drug dealer because he owed $17 for crack.
Sharon Gray, the records manager for JPD. She attests to 2,095 calls for service and 1,015 offense reports on the street from 1995 until Aug. 26, 2006.
Ridgeway Street runs from Medgar Evers Boulevard to North State Street.
Included in the affidavits is a statement from Walker saying the FBI asked him to “wear a wire and try to get Frank Melton to say something to incriminate himself,” and a statement from Smith saying he bought cocaine at the Ridgeway Street duplex the morning before the raid.