BY BRIAN JONES
COLUMBUS – A local attorney has filed suit against Lowndes County after he claims his request for court documents was denied.
Chuck Easley filed a lawsuit against the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors in chancery court on Aug. 26 alleging that he was denied access to the records of the homicide cases against Christina Martinez and Lydia Martinez. The suit was filed against the supervisors because they supervise the Justice Court system.
Christina Martinez and Lydia Martinez were the wife and mother in law, respectively, of Manuel Vasquez. They were taken into custody in July after human remains were recovered from several locations at the Vasquez home. Vasquez had been missing since June.
According to the complaint, which is only one side of a legal argument, Easley went to Lowndes County Justice Court to view the records and was denied access. Later that same day, Easley wrote a letter to Justice Court Clerk Linder Erby demanding he be allowed to view them.
The letter reads:
“I came to the Justice Court today and asked for copies of the criminal charges on Christina Martinez and Lydia Martinez who are potential clients. I was refused any paperwork and was told this was at the direction of Judge Ron Cook by order of the District Attorney Forrest Allgood. When did the District Attorney start running the Lowndes County Justice Court? Failure to provide me with the charges (paperwork) requested violates the rights of Christina Martinez and Lydia Martinez. Furthermore, the adverse conduct of the Justice Court violates my right to practice law.”
According to the complaint, the county is in violation of Section 25-61-13 of the Mississippi Code.
Easley asks the chancery court order Justice Court to provide the records in question, specifically the affidavits charging Christina Martinez and Lydia Martinez. He also asks the the county pay compensatory damages, including attorneys fees, costs incurred and all court costs.
Since Easley’s lawsuit was filed, District Attorney Forrest Allgood was quoted in the Aug. 28 Dispatch as saying there had been a “miscommunication” and that he did not mean for affidavits – which are public record – be sealed.
The Packet went to Lowndes County Justice Court Monday afternoon and, after filling out a records request form and paying a copying fee, received a copy of the affidavit without issue.
[See related story in this week’s edition. – Ed.]0