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JOHN WRIGHT v. J. D. McADORY

DECEMBER 07, 1988

JOHN WRIGHT
v.
J. D. McADORY, SHERIFF



EN BANC

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

This case presents important questions regarding the administration of our criminal justice system. To what extent is the district attorney empowered to grant a witness immunity from prosecution in exchange for the witness' appearance before the grand jury? We answer the question and hold that, so long as the authority and approval of the circuit court are obtained, the prosecuting attorney may strike an enforceable agreement with the prospective witness that, if he or she will testify as a witness in any pending proceeding, he or she may be granted immunity from prosecution.

 Our second question is whether a person so immunized may be subpoenaed and compelled to give testimony before a grand jury. We consider this question, of course, in the context of the person's right to remain silent secured by the federal Fifth Amendment and Article 3, Section 26 of this state's bill of rights. Our answer turns on the extent of the immunity granted. So long as the immunity is co-extensive with the individual's privilege against self-incrimination, a fortiori what he says may not incriminate him. Only where such co-extensive immunity is granted and made enforceable may the

 witness be compelled to testify and, upon his refusal, held in contempt.

 In the case at bar, the immunity tendered falls short of the required co-extensivity. The writ of habeas corpus is granted and the witness is discharged from the burdens of the Circuit Court's contempt order.

 II.

 On April 25, 1988, Leron (Larone) Brown was shot and killed on the campus of Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. The prime suspect in this shooting is Chauncey Wright. Four days after the shooting, the Hinds County Grand Jury convened to consider the matter. John Wright, today's petitioner and the brother of Chauncey Wright, was subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury. It appears that John Wright had been present at the time of the April 25 shooting.

 Before the grand jury, Wright was told that he was not a suspect himself. The district attorney's office further advised Wright that, even if in testimony he said anything that might incriminate him, he would enjoy immunity from prosecution. Notwithstanding, John Wright refused to testify, invoking the Fifth Amendment. *fn1

 Immediately thereafter the district attorney brought contempt charges against Wright for his failure to testify before the grand jury. The matter was heard before the Circuit Court of Hinds County on May 10, 1988, Hon. William F. Coleman presiding. At that hearing the District Attorney testified that Wright could be charged with accessory to the crime of murder. The Court did not rule but suggested that the witness should be given a second opportunity to appear before the grand jury when it convened on May 20.

 Before May 20 the district attorney's office made John Wright a written offer of immunity, agreeing not to prosecute him if he testified fully and truthfully before the grand jury. *fn2 In addition, the D.A.'s office gave Wright and his attorney a written list of questions he could expect to be asked before the grand jury. The questions were:

 Were you present on the scene at Jackson State University when he was shot on April 25, 1988?

 Who shot him?

 Why? What was Larone doing at the time?

 Did you see Chauncey Wright earlier that A.M. with a gun?

 Did you tell him not to take a gun to the Jackson State University campus with him?

 What did you say to him?

 How many times did Chauncey shoot Larone Brown?

 What did you tell or say to Chauncey when he pulled the gun out of his briefcase?

 Did you tell him," Don't do that, man? "

 Was it the same gun you were shot with ...


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