Harrison County Trying To Negotiate A Williams Settlement

Harrison County is trying to settle the Jesse Lee Williams civil lawsuit before it goes to court. Supervisors held an emergency meeting Thursday and discussed the status of that case.

A federal judge will lift a stay on the pending suit July 2.

Harrison County supervisors spent 40 minutes in executive session. When they came out, they announced that the county was negotiating with the Williams family to try and end the wrongful death case. The lawsuit pitting the family of Jesse Lee Williams against Harrison County was the only item on Thursday's agenda. New motions in that case can be filed next month.

Board attorney Joe Meadows requested the special meeting.

"I felt that it was imperative that the board meet as quickly as possible to discuss late developments in the case," he said.

Supervisors spent two minutes in open session. Then they got up and walked into an adjoining conference room. Because this was pending litigation involving the Harrison County jail and several jailers, they met behind closed doors. When they came out of their closed meeting, board president Larry Benefield explained what they discussed.

"The county is doing everything in its power to basically resolve this thing, this terrible act, this terrible situation based on what's best for the taxpayers of Harrison County," Supervisor Benefield said.

Jesse Lee Williams died while in Harrison County's custody in February, 2006. The jailers allegedly linked to his death go on trial in August. While investigators were looking into the Williams tragedy, his family filed a civil suit. That's the case Harrison County supervisors would like to settle out of court.

"There are some negotiations going on with the hope to resolve this issue," Meadows said.

The attorney says Harrison County has a million dollar insurance policy that protects the county and the jail in cases like the Williams civil suit. However, the family's suit asks for $150 million in damages.

The family's attorney is Michael Crosby. Other than confirming that some negotiation talks had taken place, Crosby said he couldn't say anything else about the civil suit.

Since the February, 2006 incident, five Harrison County jailers have pleaded guilty to a variety of jail beatings and coverups. In a couple of cases, the jailers admitted that they either knew about or covered up the Williams beating death.