GREENWOOD, Mississippi — A judge has ordered attorneys for a Greenwood doctor charged in a murder-for-hire case to turnover Dr. Arnold Smith's personal cellphone which was not seized by police during a search of Smith's home.
The Greenwood Commonwealth reports (http://bit.ly/1plVWFe ) prosecutors told Circuit Judge Breland Hilburn that the cellphone somehow evaded authorities during their search of Smith's home.
"It just so happened that during the search of the defendant's home that night there were several cellphones taken," Jones said. "This one, for some reason, managed not to be discovered."
Hilburn ordered the phone immediately sealed and turned over to police.
Smith, 72, is charged with murder as the alleged instigator of a plot that ended April 28, 2012, with the death of gunman Keaira Byrd and the serious wounding Derrick Lacy. Byrd allegedly was hired to kill Lee Abraham, who represented Smith's ex-wife in their divorce years ago. Smith is also charged with two counts of conspiring to murder Abraham.
Three investigators from the attorney general's office were at Abraham's office when Byrd and Lacy arrived and exchanged gunfire. Abraham was not injured in the gunfire.
The criminal case against Smith has been on hold indefinitely since Hilburn ruled in December that Smith was unfit to stand trial. Smith is being held at the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield. Another hearing will be held to re-examine his competency after treatment is completed.
Jones told Hilburn that the cellphone is somewhere in Florida in the custody of Hugo Rodriguez, a Miami-based criminal defense attorney who represented Smith and now intends to withdraw from the case.
In arguing against surrender of the cellphone, Smith's attorney, William Bell of Ridgeland, said prosecutors should file a formal motion to obtain the cellphone. Bell said searching the phone might violate his client's Fifth Amendment rights.
"File a written motion, and I'll respond to it," Bell said. "There are a lot of things we'd have to say about that."
"If it's a material piece of evidence in this case, which the state believes it is, then the state doesn't have to file a motion to get something brought back," Jones told the judge.
"I think once the phone is actually brought properly into the investigation, then those issues can be raised," he said. "We don't even know what, particularly, is on it. Maybe nothing's on it. Maybe it's been erased. That's my guess."
Jones said, Mary Smith, the physician's wife, apparently turned the phone over to Bell, who in turn gave it to Rodriguez, who took it with him to Miami.
Information from: The Greenwood Commonwealth, http://www.gwcommonwealth.com