April 13, 2018 10:01:15 AM
Alex Holloway - [email protected]
The clock is ticking as both sides begin waiting to move forward toward a decision in Johnny Moore's challenge of last year's mayoral election in Starkville.
Attorneys representing both Moore and current Mayor Lynn Spruill rested on Thursday in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court, and tended to a few brief procedural matters before the court recessed.
Moore is challenging his six-vote election loss to Spruill in last May's Democratic Primary runoff election.
With testimony finished on Wednesday, former First District Circuit Court Judge Barry Ford said that he will allow both sides 21 days after receiving a transcript of the week's proceedings to prepare proposed final findings to submit to him. Transcripts will likely take a few weeks to prepare.
After receiving the proposals and consulting with the municipal election commission, Ford will issue a written decision on the case.
During court on Thursday, Ford said he plans to make the best decision he can, and he understands that an appeal from either side is likely.
"I'm gonna call it just like I see it," Ford said. "When I do call it, whatever you decide to do is not gonna make a difference to me one way or the other. If it goes for you, well and good. If it goes against you, still well and good because I'm gonna call it just like I see it, and probably the Supreme Court is going to see it the way I see it."
Before the court completely adjourned, Ford and attorneys from the Moore and Spruill camps reviewed absentee ballots from the city's seven wards. Spruill's attorneys contend that 52 absentee ballots, by the testimony of Moore's expert witness James L. "Pete" Perry, that were "fatally" deficient and should not be counted.
Ford will decide whether to count those ballots, as well as nine total affidavit and absentee ballots that were presented for consideration in the trial, at a later date. Moore's side presented eight ballots that are still awaiting consideration. Spruill's team presented one specific ballot for consideration.
William Starks, an attorney representing Moore, said he was pleased with the week's progress, and he is looking forward to the case moving ahead.
"Now that all the evidence is in now, we think the judge will make the appropriate decision on the ballots that were presented," Starks said. "Obviously, we hope the ones we presented that were rejected are accepted by the court and there's good evidence to do so. We hate that voters came to the polls, entered a vote and weren't counted, and we hope they will be at this time."
Jim Mozingo, an attorney representing Spruill, said he was satisfied with the trial. He said he understood some people may be frustrated at another bout of prolonged waiting, but he said that's to be expected for a case that needs such close examination.
"It went well," he said. "We'll probably be doing some preliminary stuff that we can do now before we get the transcript back so it's not as voluminous to do,
Before court ended on Thursday, Ford complimented both Moore and Spruill.
"Apparently, both of you were really good candidates because it was a close call in the initial election," Ford said. "It's always good to have good candidates and good people running for public office because in the end it benefits the constituents."