With claims of witness intimidation, prosecutorial misconduct and sloppy investigative work, a hearing for a Starkville woman accused of killing a Mathiston man in November 2008 grew contentious Thursday morning in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court.
The motion hearing for 21-year-old Leslie Sharp, charged with murder for the Nov. 10, 2008 shooting death of 20-year-old Christopher Cole at the corner of Kelly and Rockhill roads in northeastern Oktibbeha County, was scheduled to resume today at 9 a.m. after Judge Lee Howard ended the two-hour-long proceeding Thursday due to a long list of unrelated cases on the court docket.
Defense attorney Jack Brown said he feels the state has withheld from him information about the case. He cited newspaper articles in The Dispatch and Starkville Daily News in which Assistant District Attorney Rhonda Hayes-Ellis said the state dropped the initial manslaughter charge against Sharp and instead charged her with murder due to “new evidence.” Brown said he has never seen this “new evidence.”
“Either there”s new evidence or there isn”t,” he said.
But Hayes-Ellis contended the state has not withheld any evidence from the defense.
Brown also was frustrated crime lab results were not available on a gun recovered from the crime scene, despite the fact that next Wednesday will mark the two-year anniversary of the shooting. An initial round of tests were completed and Brown said he has those results, but the gun was sent to the crime lab a second time and he still hasn”t seen the new findings.
Hayes-Ellis again contended the state has not intentionally withheld any information from the defense regarding witness statements or crime lab results. She also said she only received the most recent crime lab results Thursday morning.
Brown also was frustrated by the lack of current witness addresses provided by the state, but Hayes-Ellis said she planned to get Brown an updated contact list prior to this morning”s hearing, along with the updated crime lab results.
Among other issues brought to the court”s attention, Brown criticized the work of Mississippi Highway Patrol Master Sgt. Freddie Pate, who investigated the case. According to Brown, Pate transcribed Sharp”s video statement from the night of the shooting, but 12 pages worth of dialogue were missing from the transcription.
“The highway patrolman falsely mislead not only the state, but everybody else involved with this case,” Brown said.
Brown called Pate to the witness stand Thursday, but Pate said the incomplete transcription was the result of a technical error and wasn”t intentional. When the videotaped statement was converted to an audio recording, not all of the videotaped statement transferred, Pate said.
Among other developments brought in front of the court Thursday were claims of witness intimidation. At least two witnesses called by Brown claimed members of the Cole family had threatened them since the shooting.
Sharp also was threatened on her Facebook page by Kiefer Cole, brother of Christopher Cole, and Brown presented a print-out of Sharp”s Facebook page to Kiefer Cole on the witness stand Thursday, where he confirmed the message came from his account.
One witness, Alissandra Inunza, even filed witness intimidation charges against Cole”s mother, but the charge was dismissed this week.
While the second day of motions was set to begin this morning, Sharp”s trial isn”t scheduled to begin until the winter Oktibbeha County Circuit Court term.
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