Mayor Melton jury pool expanded

In a victory for Mayor Frank Melton, the jury for his May 11 federal civil rights trial will be drawn from the entire southern judicial district and not from an overwhelmingly white jury pool on the Gulf Coast as previously planned.

In an order issued Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Dan Jordan reversed his March 10 decision to draw a jury exclusively from the Coast.

Federal prosecutors had asked for a jury from the southern division of the district, which is composed of the six coastal counties, arguing media coverage of Melton’s trial last month had been so intense that an unbiased jury could not be found anywhere else in the southern district.

“The Court was convinced by the Government’s submissions that drawing a jury entirely from the Southern Division would be easier than pulling a district-wide jury. However, the Court cannot say that the district as a whole is tainted because it does include the Southern Division and pockets within the other divisions for which media coverage has been less intense,” Jordan wrote in the order.

In another filing Tuesday, Recio’s attorney, Cynthia Stewart, asked Jordan to appoint her as a public defender and have the federal government pick up the cost of Recio’s defense in the upcoming trial.

Recio has been on paid administrative leave since July.

In a letter Monday to a top Justice Department official, Stewart said the cost of defending himself has financially drained him. In her filing today, she listed Recio’s expenses totaling $4,548 per month, including a nearly $1,700-a-month mortgage.

By comparison, Stewart said, Recio’s police salary brings in just $2,168 a month, or $26,000 a year.

Clarion-Ledger 4/1/9