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Deputies trial continues
by By RUTH JENSEN For The Winona Times & The Conservative
Oct 03, 2013 | 5055 views | 0 0 comments | 518 518 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LEXINGTON — Defense attorney Jimmy Powell said early in the trial of two Carroll deputies in a 2011 shooting in Holmes County that he would show the chief investigator’s work was “shoddy and biased” from the beginning. On Wednesday he hammered that message.

On day three of the trial, Powell repeatedly asked Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Agent Lucarus Oliver, husband of Holmes District Attorney Akillie Oliver, whether he had any physical evidence linking Deputy Curtis Bela Alford to the charges against him.

Alford is charged with aggravated assault, shooting a weapon into an occupied vehicle, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct and kidnapping. Deputy John Beck faces the same charges except for kidnapping.

“Is there any ballistics evidence that associates Mr. Alford at any time?” Powell asked Lucarus Oliver.

“We found nothing to prove he shot his weapon,” Oliver replied.

“Is there any evidence of Alford’s DNA being in the vehicle where bullets would have been removed, or any photographs of Alford in connection of him removing evidence from the vehicle?” Powell asked. “You have alleged they tampered with evidence. What evidence do you have that they removed evidence?”

Oliver said the deputies stated they went inside the car, which was at the Carroll Emergency Operations Center, to get identification and cellphones.

“There were certain places where we should have found evidence and we didn’t,” Oliver said.

Powell pushed Oliver on when the tire was searched for bullets.

“When you came to the EOC center, did you check the tire for bullets?” Powell asked.

“No,” Oliver replied. He said he did not check the tire for bullets until May 18, 2011, two months after the March 9 incident, when he went to the Lexington home of Odessa Williams. Beck is alleged to have shot into Williams’ car after an encounter with him and Albert Coffee at the Delta Electric sub-station in Holmes County.

Williams and Coffee have said they had met at the sub-station to talk when the two Carroll County deputies stopped to try to talk to them. Williams said he was afraid and left the scene quickly, after which Beck shot into the back of his vehicle. Coffee alleges he was held against his will in Alford’s patrol car for no reason.

The deputies say they wanted to talk to the two men because they were in the area where two men had run from the deputies after being pursued from Carroll County for turning around to avoid a roadblock. The car wrecked in Holmes County, and its two occupants fled.

“Do you have any evidence of the two men agreeing to remove evidence from the scene?” Powell asked.

“No,” Oliver replied.

“In the statement Albert Coffee gave you, did he say he was handcuffed by Deputy Alford?” Powell asked.

“No, he never said he was handcuffed in the statement,” Oliver replied.

Alford was indicted on a kidnapping charge for allegedly holding Coffee without his permission in his patrol car.

Powell also pushed Oliver about assuming from the beginning of the investigation that Williams and Coffee were “victims” in the incident before any investigation was done.

After playing a DVD made from tapes of interviews with both deputies by Oliver the day after the incident, Powell asked Oliver why he had the deputies to come in to his office in Greenwood, where they were read their Miranda rights and interviewed for an extended time, while Coffee was interviewed on the phone when he insisted he could not or did not want to meet with investigators.

Oliver said he went to Williams’ home for a short interview and “asked him what happened.”

“Did you ask him why they were at the plant (Delta Electric sub-station) that night?” Powell asked.

“No,” Oliver replied.

“The car was in the general area of where that car had fled from deputies. You didn’t ask what they were doing there?” Powell asked.

“He told me he was talking with Edward (Albert Coffee),” Oliver said.

“Did you ask how long he had been there?” Powell asked.

“No,” Oliver said.

“Was he able to give you an address for Edward (Albert Coffee)?” Powell asked.

“I did not ask for that. It was not relevant,” Oliver said.

“He did not know Coffee’s last name. Where did you get the information about Edward (Albert Coffee)?” Powell asked.

“I’m not sure, but I got it,” Oliver replied.

“Isn’t it true you got it from information Deputies Alford and Beck got that night? You didn’t call Coffee in for an interview. You never bothered to go to his house,” Powell said.

“He kept coming up with reasons he could not, so I just talked to him on the phone,” Oliver said.

“Did you ask him about inconsistencies in his statements with those of (Mississippi Highway Patrol) Trooper (Keith) Conner or the deputies?” Powell asked.

“No,” Oliver said.

“Did you ask for what purpose they were there, or how long they had been there?” Powell asked.

“No,” Oliver replied.

“You had reports that Beck and Alford were victims. Any reason you didn’t consider them victims?” Powell asked.

“I had talked with (Holmes County Sheriff Willie March) and he said Odessa Williams had told him his car had been shot,” Oliver said.

“When you picked up Williams’ report, was that when you started disbelieving the deputies?” Powell asked.

Beck has claimed Williams tried to run over him and said that’s why he shot at the car.

Powell also pressed Oliver on the law of “hot pursuit,” which Powell said allows a county deputy to go into another county in during a pursuit of suspects and to question witnesses while he is there as part of the pursuit. Agent Oliver and District Attorney Oliver have insisted the deputies did not have any jurisdiction in Holmes County.

Lucarus Oliver said he knew “the generals of the law but not the specifics.”

“At some point (in the interview of John Beck), you say he wept and said, ‘I probably should not have shot.’ How long was the interview after you turned off the tape?” Powell asked.

“I did not note,” Oliver said.

“An extended period of time?” Powell asked.

“Yes,” Oliver answered.

“Why did you turn off the tape?” Powell continued.

“I figured Officer Beck would be more forthcoming,” Oliver said.

Powell also asked why Oliver was asked to take the case, since he is married to the Holmes district attorney. He said his superiors felt he could be fair in the investigation. Powell said Carroll Sheriff Jerry Carver had expressed concerns about Oliver’s ability to be unbiased in this situation to the MBI’s Eric Johnson, who assigned Oliver to the case.

Oliver was to continue on the stand today.

Wednesday’s session lasted until 8 p.m.

Defense attorneys also questioned Albert Coffee on Wednesday. Kevin Horan asked him about inconsistencies in his statements.

“You said the two deputies shot at the car, and that another officer came and pointed a light in your face. Was there a third officer?” Powell asked.

“I wasn’t counting cars,” Coffee said.

He said he was talking to Williams when Trooper Conner came by and asked if the two were OK.

“Before we know it, two cars pull up. The officers get out of the car and approach Odessa with a flashlight and a gun, and Odessa pulls off,” Coffee said.

“When he pulls off, the officer gets in the road and started shooting at his car. On the left side, one was in my face. He was telling me to get on the ground,” Coffee said.

“He had a Taser, told me to get on the ground, get against the car. He handcuffed me, took me to the scene (where Williams had fled, leaving his car). I was so nervous, I smoked a cigarette,” he said.

“They (later) took me back to the truck, said I could go home,” Coffee said.

“Were you held against your will?” Horan asked.

“Yes, I hadn’t done nothing,” Coffee replied.

Coffee said he made various statements because he was in shock from the incident, and it took him a while to be clear about what had happened.

“Did you see two officers shoot?” Horan asked.

“I just saw one,” Coffee said.

“Were blue lights on the vehicle?” Horan asked.

“I don’t remember,” Coffee said.

Beck and Alford have said they had their vehicles’ blue lights on when they stopped to talk to Williams and Coffee.

“After the incident, you never filed charges against anyone or went to Sheriff March to complain about the treatment from the deputies?” Horan asked.

“No,” Coffee said. “Odessa got a lawyer. He said my rights was violated. I didn’t know. My lawyer took care of that.”

Last year, Carroll County settled a federal lawsuit filed by Williams and Coffee. The terms of the settlement were confidential.

The state was to continue with its case today.

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