Lawyer: Miss. AG's campaign ad hurt accused killer

AP News
Posted: Nov 29, 2011 6:24 PM
Lawyer: Miss. AG's campaign ad hurt accused killer

A lawyer for a man charged with killing a Catholic priest has filed a complaint that says his client can't get a fair trial because of a television advertisement aired by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's successful re-election campaign.

The complaint, filed with the Mississippi Bar and obtained by The Associated Press, said the commercial tainted the prospective jury pool by referring to Jeremy Wayne Manieri as someone who "murdered a 70-year-old priest in cold blood."

Manieri has been charged by police, but not indicted by a grand jury.

The complaint, dated Nov. 22 and signed by Manieri's attorney, Brian Alexander of Bay St. Louis, says all people accused of crimes have the right to the presumption of innocence.

"This complaint is far larger than Jeremy Manieri or Jim Hood. With the long view in mind, this is about the countless people in Mr. Manieri's position who are clinging to the notion that our system still adheres to vestiges of fairness and due process," the complaint says.

The complaint goes on to say the fact that Hood did "harm my client's cause for personal gain is irrefutable."

Alexander declined to discuss the matter Tuesday with the AP other than to say the "complaint speaks for itself, the thrust of which is that we are a nation of laws, not men."

Adam Kilgore, general counsel for the Mississippi Bar, said rules of conduct prohibit him from confirming whether a complaint has been filed.

Speaking generally, Kilgore said a complaint could be dismissed if there's not "clear and convincing evidence." If the evidence is credible, an attorney could face disciplinary measures such as a private reprimand, a public reprimand, suspension or disbarment.

Hood's spokeswoman, Jan Schaefer, and his campaign manager, Jonathan Compretta, both declined to comment, citing rules of professional conduct.

Compretta said in a written statement this month that the "ad did not name the defendant and merely stated facts from media reports." He accused Alexander of using the commercial to drum up pretrial publicity and manipulating the media.

The complaint said that the statement itself reasserted Manieri's guilt and made a fair trial even less likely.

Hood's campaign used the commercial to portray his political opponent as weak on crime. Hood, the incumbent Democrat, defeated Republican Steve Simpson in the Nov. 8 election.

The commercial shows a picture of Manieri as a voice says Simpson, a former judge, let a "child molester" out of jail who later "murdered a 70-year-old priest in cold blood."

Manieri is charged in the July 11 death of the Rev. Ed Everitt of Hammond, La. Authorities say the priest was robbed and fatally shot at a beach house in Waveland, Miss. Manieri did construction work at the house.

Police say Manieri shot Everitt with the priest's own .380-caliber pistol, then picked up his ex-wife and kids in Everitt's car and set out for a Disney vacation. Florida authorities arrested Manieri at a hotel near Winter Haven, Fla. Florida investigators say Manieri told them he shot the priest after passing out drunk and high and waking up to find Everitt fondling him.

Manieri pleaded guilty to molesting a girl in a 2006 case.

Simpson, a former Circuit Court judge, sentenced Manieri to two years, but suspended one year and gave him credit for time served, according to court records. Manieri was required to register as a sex offender.

Simpson has said prosecutors reached a plea agreement in the case, so he didn't have access to the evidence and based the sentence on the prosecuting attorney's recommendation.

Everitt was pastor of Holy Ghost Church in Hammond, La., and Our Lady of Pompeii Church in nearby Tickfaw. The Dominicans, a Roman Catholic order, operate the churches and a school in the community about 50 miles northwest of New Orleans.