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A View From the Bridge

In two recent columns about the CVB board issue, I made a mistake and then repeated it.    Three weeks ago (Packet #911, Dec. 23), reporting on the December 21 city council meeting, I wrote that Charlie Box was the only councilman to vote against establishing a six-member CVB board with all six seats being at-large (meaning that it would have no seats designated for representatives of the eating and lodging industries or of the Pilgrimage homeowners or the Link).    I then wrote that after this motion passed 5-1 Bill Gavin made a motion to increase the CVB board from six members to nine members by seeking a local & private bill in the legislature but that his motion did not receive a second.   I repeated this report again last week, and I added that  it appeared that Mr. Box did not second Mr. Gavin’s motion because Mr. Gavin had voted for the six-member, all-at-large board.
After last week’s Packet appeared Mr. Box phoned to say that it was he, not Mr. Gavin, who made the motion to expand the CVB board from six to nine members.   Mr. Box sits at one end of the long council table and Mr. Gavin at the other, but they all speak through a non-stereo speaker system, and I mistakenly thought that Mr. Gavin had made the second motion.
I ran into Mr. Gavin at Lowe’s over the weekend  and told him that Mr. Box had called and informed me of my error.  He replied that he didn’t remember how he had voted.   I told him that he well knew that he voted in favor of the six-member, at-large board and that he did not give a second to Mr. Box’s motion to expand the board.  Continuing to walk across the parking lot, he said, “It’s not important.”  I replied that  it is important because my error will lead people to believe that although he voted for the six-member board he also wants to expand the board.   He then said, “I have my reasons,” and got into his vehicle.
This Packet carries a letter from Mary Shields, who is serving a life sentence for murder.  Hers is a case that I have always found particularly troubling.   The “murder” occurred on shortly after midnight on January 1, 2003, in the Club Elite,  on 15th St. North, just north of 7th Ave.    The victim was Larry Martin, 45.  Mr.  Martin got into a fight with Ms. Shields, then 36, and her son, Joseph Shields, then 20.   Mr. Martiin was struck on the head with a cheap wooden bar stool during the fight, but the blow was not fatal;  what killed him was a heart attack, apparently brought on by the stress of the fight and, no doubt, by too much alcohol.  Mr. Shields was charged with murder and her bond was set at $75,000, which she couldn’t make.   She refused a plea deal and remained in jail until her trial in Februrary 2004, at which she was represented by public defender Mike Farrow.   She was found guilty of murder and Judge Jim Kitchens sentenced her to life in prison.  Ms. Shields’s only prior conviction was for burglary of a business—she had pled guilty of breaking into the old Cost-Less Food Store on College St.  in the fall of 1998 and in early 1999 was  sentenced to a year of house arrest.
After his mother was sentenced to life in prison for murder, Joseph Shields accepted a deal, pleading guilty to manslaughter and receiving a 13-year sentence in August 2005.   His only prior conviction was for burglary of a dwelling in 2001—he went to a restitution center and then was placed on probation for that crime.
It’s inconceivable to me that a life sentence would have been handed down in a case like this if the people involved in the fight had been middle class or upper class.


  1. Crim Lawyer

    Roger, I am surprised that you apparently are unaware that life is the only sentence for murder. The judge has no discretion in the sentence, it is required by statute. The only way she could get less was to accept a plea agreement which most likely would have been a plea to manslaughter, again, apparently, which was offered and refused by her. She is in prison because she chose to repeatedly break the law, not because she isn’t white and middle class.

  2. Christopher Lindsey

    Dear Roger:

    In Mississippi, if you are convicted of murder, there is one, and only one, sentence, life in prison. The Judge was simply following the law. If you think she received an excessive sentence, get the law changed or ask the governor for relief. Cases like this may make the point that the law may need to be changed, but do not fault the parties for working within the system they are given.

    Chris Lindsey

    • Disgusted by Bias

      Agreed. Judge Kitchens did what he was required to do by statute. Roger, you should do a little research before you criticize someone and basically call them racist.

  3. Johnny Phillip Morris

    For anyone following the saga of the Mary Shields case, the link below should raise some eyebrows.
    On appeal of Mary Shields’ murder conviction to The Mississippi State Appeals Court , the Court affirmed the trial court decision that Mary Shield was guilty of “the deliberate design of murder.” There was no dissenting opinion!

    How could a jury of Mary Shields’ peers find beyond a reasonable doubt that her drunken fistfight on a dancefloor– the only weapon being a barstool and ending with Ms. Shields walking away from the fight– was a “deliberate design of murder!” That, in a moment of passion and rage brought on by alcohol, she acted with deliberate INTENT to end Larry Martin’s life right there on that dancefloor?
    Discredited pathologist Dr. Steven Haynes testified “that the blunt force trauma in itself did NOT directly cause the death,” but that it was “indirectly responsible.” He testified that there “were no major tears of body organs or excessive bleeding, or the like”.
    That would trump the prosecution’s claim that Mary Shields’ “deliberate design” barstool attack lead to bodily injury and death by blunt force trauma inflicted on Larry Martin, wouldn’t you think.”

    Haynes goes on to claim that persons with hypertension and heart disease problems, who are subjected to blunt force trauma, COULD suffer death from the stress brought on by the fistfight. So, what “indirect role” could stress play in Larry Martin’s death from drinking State-sanctioned booze?

    There was no speculative testimony from Dr. Haynes of what “indirect role” booze might have played in elevating a drunken Larry Martin’s stress level after his uninvited intervention into a non-violent event on that dancefloor that was not of his concern. Ms. Shields claims that Larry Martin initiated the pushing and shoving that led to the raging fistfight . She also claims that Kitchens admiited that he had knowledge that “Larry Martin threw the first punch.”.

    If they’d all being smoking “weed” on that New Year’s Eve night, this incident probably would have never happened.

    This case has prosecutorial abuse and judicial misconduct written all over it!


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