July 7, 2014 10:20:39 AM
GREENWOOD -- Lawyers for Greenwood attorney Lee Abraham say word about an alleged murder-for-hire plot against him has made it impossible to find an impartial jury for his civil lawsuit against the alleged instigator.
Specially appointed Circuit Court Judge Breland Hilburn says he will rule this week on the change of venue motion, The Greenwood Commonwealth reported.
Dr. Arnold Smith was charged with murder after alleged hit-man Keaira Byrd died and another alleged hit-man, Derrick Lacy, was wounded in a 2012 shootout with police at Abraham's law office. Abraham was there but was not injured.
Smith, an oncologist, is undergoing mental evaluation at the Mississippi State Hospital in Whitfield.
Abraham's lawsuit claims he has had to change his daily actions and lost enjoyment of his normal life as a result of the alleged plot and the shootout.
In arguments Wednesday at the Leflore County Courthouse, Lawrence Tucker argued that controversy and animosity toward both Abraham and Smith would likely be tough to avoid while selecting a jury in Leflore County.
During the course of their investigations, Tucker said he'd spoken with at least 20 Greenwood-area residents who claimed to have served as "informants" for Smith, reporting Abraham's alleged misdeeds to the oncologist.
Tucker said interviews with staff at the North Central Mississippi Regional Cancer Center, the clinic Smith owned and operated, revealed that the doctor "blamed everything on Lee Abraham" -- apparently including, Tucker said, broken copiers in the office.
Smith's attorney, William Bell of Ridgeland, contended that the motion is too late, coming nearly two years after the lawsuit was originally filed.
Bell said most of the evidence cited by Abraham's attorneys as showing community bias has long been public knowledge. The motion, Bell said, "digs up things that were out there since before the lawsuit was even filed."
1. Ex-office manager arrested for embezzlement COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY