MDOC commissioner found liable in false imprisonment lawsuit

The Mississippi Department of Corrections’ attempt to have a jury’s verdict thrown out was denied by U.S. Magistrate Jerry A. Davis on Monday.

In January, a jury ruled in favor of former inmate Will Terrance Porter, and awarded him $250,000 for being in prison for 15 months longer than he should have been held, according to court records.

Porter was arrested in June 1, 2004, in Coahoma County on a charge of burglary to an automobile, to which he pleaded guilty, to in October 2004, according to court records. He was sentenced to five years in prison, with four years suspended and one year to be served on house arrest.

In April 2005, Porter was arrested for a misdemeanor charge that was later dropped. However, Mack E. Cock, an officer with MDOC, placed a hold on Porter and in May 2005, a hearing was held at which Hearing Officer Stephanie Jones found Porter had violated the terms of his house arrest, despite the fact the criminal charge was dropped. The original five-year sentence was reinstated by Cox and Jones, at the direction of Epps, and Porter was taken to the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman.

On July 5, Porter filed an appeal with the Circuit Court of Coahoma County. After a hearing, Circuit Judge Charles E. Webster found that MDOC lacked the authority to reinstate Porter’s original sentence and ordered Porter be released from prison.

Porter, through his attorneys J. Rhea Tannehill and Ray Hill III of Oxford, originally sued Cox, Jones and Epps but they later dropped Cox from the suit. During the trail, held Jan. 15 at the Federal Courthouse in Oxford before Davis, the court granted a directed verdict of not guilty to Jones. Tannehill was the original attorney on record, but referred the case to Hill after he learned he was being deployed to active military duty in Iraq.

The jury found in favor of Porter and granted him the $250,000 verdict.

Attorneys for MDOC filed the motion to throw the jury verdict out and award MDOC a new trial. They also asked the judge to reduce the $250,000 in damages, but Davis denied the motion for a new trial and would not throw out the jury’s verdict.

Oxford Eagle 4/1/9