NAACP: Judge's ruling a "slap in the face" - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

NAACP: Judge's ruling a "slap in the face"

By Doug Walker – bio | email

PEARL RIVER COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The NAACP in Pearl River County is again upset with a judge's ruling in a criminal case.

Last year, Justice Court Judge Nell Cowart released a white man accused of killing a black man, saying there was not enough probable cause to hold the shooting suspect. Tuesday, that same judge was back in court, hearing another case involving a white woman accused of shooting an 11-year-old black child, seriously wounding him.

Leaders of the NAACP and members of the black community gathered outside the courthouse Tuesday afternoon, eager to learn about the judge's ruling inside the courtroom.  

Audrey Mitchell, 68, was charged with aggravated assault for shooting the child, who was riding a four-wheeler on the road in front of her home. After hearing the testimony, Judge Cowart set bond at $20,000. That set off a firestorm of protest. 

The Reverend Jimmy Richardson heads up the NAACP in Pearl River County.

"We're real disappointed about that," Richardson said.  "We feel that bond should have been five or $600,000, even a million or better. A $20,000 dollar bond on a charge like this is a slap in the face."

Sheriff David Allison was more diplomatic, but expressed his own concerns.  

"We were pleased with the judge's ruling that she did keep the lady behind bars, but I was a little bit shocked that she set the bond at $20,000." Allison said.  "I thought it should have been more than that, but that's the judge's decision. We live with that and go on." 

As for Judge Cowart, she defended her ruling. 

"That's exactly what the book called for and I wasn't going up or down or any way around it." Cowart said.  "I went by the book and that's what I usually do." 

The judge also responded to allegations that her rulings have a racial component to them.

"Well, I'm sorry. I love the black, I love the white, I love everybody and I'm not partial," Cowart said.  

But that didn't comfort the Reverend Richardson.  

"My concern is someone that would be willing to take a gun out of the house and to say that you're going to try and scare them, that's not the way you deal with an 11-year-old kid," Richardson said. 

Also in court Tuesday, Judge Cowart appointed an attorney to represent Mitchell, and said a preliminary hearing on the case will be held next month.

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