OF JUDGMENT: 04/13/2016
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JEFF WEILL, SR.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: DAVID NEIL McCARTY MERRIDA COXWELL
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
JOSEPH SCOTT HEMLEBEN
WALLER, C.J., KING AND MAXWELL, JJ.
Criminal contempt "involves an act 'which tends to
bring the court into disrepute or
disrespect.'" In this case, Christopher Scott Routh was
found in direct criminal contempt after he disrespected the
court-specifically by standing up to dispute a judge's
bond ruling after the bond hearing had been
concluded and despite being directed by the judge to sit down
and make any further argument by written motion. Because the
record supports the criminal-contempt finding beyond a
reasonable doubt, we affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
On April 23, 2016, Christopher Routh represented Loren
Shell-Blackwell (Blackwell) at her arraignment hearing. Routh
is an attorney with the Hinds County Public Defender's
Office. Blackwell had been indicted for capital murder.
Prior to the hearing, Blackwell had been out on bond, under
house arrest. Routh requested Blackwell remain on bond and
under house arrest. Routh argued his client had a
constitutional right to reasonable bail. He also asserted the
State had no evidence linking her to the crime.
The State responded that its policy is to request bond be
denied to those charged with capital murder, and Blackwell
should be no exception. The State argued, contrary to
Routh's no-evidence claim, that Blackwell's DNA had
been found at the murder scene, plus she had given
incriminating statements to the police. Moreover, Blackwell
posed a flight risk, having no ties to Hinds County. The
State also pointed out that the only reason Blackwell had
been granted bond previously was because she was pregnant.
And now that her child was born, there was no longer any
reason she remain out of jail.
At this point, the circuit judge asked Routh about
Blackwell's infant, whom she had brought with her to the
hearing. Routh responded that the baby had a certain
digestive condition that required his mother breast-feed him.
The judge asked what evidence Routh had to support this
contention. At first, Routh equivocated, saying he was not
familiar with the exact condition but that was what his
client told him. But then Routh began talking about a
hospital discharge form. When asked if he wanted to introduce
the form into evidence, Routh said yes. But before offering
it, the judge permitted the State to review the form. The
State pointed out that the document was a general discharge
form from the hospital. It merely directed the baby be
regularly fed breast milk or formula. After
reviewing the record himself, the judge agreed the document
contained no diagnosis of a gastrointestinal issue and no
prescription for breast milk only. Because the form Routh
presented stated the infant could be fed formula instead of
breast milk, the judge found no compelling reason to grant
bond on this basis.
The judge then announced his decision-
I'm going to deny bond. It's a capital murder charge.
Another purpose of bond is to protect the public. Capital
murder is an extremely serious charge which can carry the
death penalty, and the DNA evidence cited by the State, along
with the other summary of the evidence ...