Trials set in perjury cases

James Franklin Bibbs and Mary Annette Purnell, both of Winona, were taken into custody at the courthouse during the trial in September after Circuit Judge Joseph Loper accused them of trying to taint the jury pool.

Bibbs’ trial is July 8, and Purnell’s is Sept. 8. No locations have been chosen.

Curtis Flowers was being tried for the fifth time in the killings of four people at the Tardy Furniture Store in Winona in 1996.

He was convicted and sentenced to death three times, with each conviction being overturned on appeal. His fourth trial in December 2007 resulted in a hung jury, and the district attorney’s office was again seeking the death penalty at the September 2008 trial.

Loper has recused himself from hearing the perjury cases, and Circuit Judge Jannie Lewis was appointed by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

On the first day of testimony, Purnell was arrested during the afternoon recess after it was discovered she possibly had lied about her relationship with Flowers. Purnell had said she did not know Flowers, but an anonymous juror cut from the jury pool told the court that Purnell did know Flowers and that a car belonging to Flowers’ parents had been seen at her home.

Loper said Purnell was listed on the visitor’s log as being able to visit Flowers in jail and that more than 60 telephone calls from the jail had been made to Purnell’s home.

According to the court record, twice during the trial, the jury informed the judge that information not presented during the trial was being introduced in the jury room by Bibbs, namely that he was “working near Tardy Furniture the morning of the murders and that the evidence had been planted in the store.”

After nearly 16 hours of deliberation, the jury foreman told Loper they could not reach an unanimous decision, which was needed to impose the death penalty. Loper dismissed the jury and told Bibbs that it “was absolutely ridiculous that he would come in here and lie to this court.”