Tyrone Lewis’ testimony doesn’t bode well

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As the democratic nominee, Tyrone Lewis is sure to become the next sheriff of Hinds County.

Several attorney friends of mine have a problem with Mr. Lewis becoming the county’s top law enforcement officer – Northsidesun.com.

tyrone lewis

Tyrone Lewis

They cite a recent Mississippi Supreme Court case accusing Lewis of stating untruths while testifying under oath as a paid expert witness in a wrongful death lawsuit. The lawsuit involves the shooting death of Crystal Coleman, whose body was found at the Rebelwood Apartments in Jackson in 2007. The lawsuit alleged that Rebelwood failed to provide adequate security.

But Coleman wasn’t killed on the Rebelwood premises. She was killed elsewhere and her body transported to the Rebelwood parking lot. Cleveland Ellis told three Jackson police officers he accidentally shot Coleman at the Woodbine Terrace apartments and then drove her body to Rebelwood.

This confession occurred at Jackson police headquarters and was documented in a sworn affidavit titled, “Underlying Facts and Circumstances.”

That evidence was not allowed into the trial presided over by Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd, resulting in a $3 million judgment against Rebelwood. The Mississippi Supreme Court overturned the verdict saying Kidd erred by suppressing that evidence.

During the trial, our new sheriff-to-be testified under oath that, “There is no documentation, no written statements or anybody to come forward to say it did not happen at Rebelwood.”

At the time, Tyrone Lewis was deputy police chief. He was moonlighting for the plaintiffs’ attorney as a paid expert witness. The Clarion-Ledger reported Lewis charged a $3,500 retainer as an expert witness plus $200 an hour for consultation and $1,500 an hour for depositions. Lewis has testified as an expert witness hundreds of times.

Jackson Police Department policy bars officers from off-duty work that includes being an expert witness in which the officer will be giving his opinion in any matter investigated by JPD or any other city departments, unless the officer’s testimony is given on behalf of the city or the city attorney, the Clarion-Ledger reported.

Mississippi Supreme Court Judge Michael Randolph, writing the majority opinion, stated the following: The erroneous ruling allowed plaintiff’s expert, Tyrone Lewis, to testify with impunity and without fear of exposure, “There is no documentation, no written statements or anybody to come forward to say that it did not happen [at Rebelwood].”

The trial court should have known that Lewis’s statement was untrue. In fact, repeated references and statements to the contrary exist throughout the investigative reports. A cursory examination would reveal this truth. Under either scenario, Lewis’s statement was patently erroneous and violated the purpose and construction of our Rules (“that the truth may be ascertained and proceedings justly determined”). Miss. R. Evid. 102. The jury was left with a false impression, and Rebelwood clearly was prejudiced.

Rebelwood was denied a fundamentally fair opportunity to cross-examine, not only English’s experts on the facts giving rise to their opinions about the circumstances and location of the shooting, but other witnesses as well.

My attorney friends claim Tyrone Lewis committed perjury. They are very concerned how such a man could become the top law enforcement officer of Hinds County. I share their concern. How can the top court in our state accuse Lewis of making untrue statements without a subsequent grand jury convened for a possible perjury indictment?

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith or Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood would be the officials responsible for initiating such a grand jury investigation. However, these two officials have already shown their disinclination to enforce our laws against governmental abuse. The Sun has reported on numerous occasions how the Hinds County Board of Supervisors has violated our state’s ethics and bidding laws. Zero action has been forthcoming from either Hood or Smith.

First of all, Tyrone Lewis should never use his position as deputy chief to get hired as an expert witness involving official police business. Second, the Jackson Police Department should have immediately terminated him for this ethics abuse. Third, he should have been investigated for perjury in the wake of his untrue testimony.

This was not a trivial matter. Three million dollars was riding on this lawsuit. False testimony under such circumstances is a very serious offense. Instead of prosecution, Tyrone Lewis will soon become head of law enforcement for Hinds County. It’s a scary thought.

This underscores the dysfunctional system of investigating and prosecuting public white collar crime in Mississippi. We need a non-elected, independent law enforcement division capable of convening a grand jury and putting a stop to corruption of this nature. The lack of such a division is a glaring oversight in our state.