July 15, 2010 10:29:00 AM
When Cortiga Williams pressed charges against her husband for adultery earlier this month, she called upon a nearly forgotten law. In Mississippi, it''s a crime to cheat on a spouse by having sex or even living with another person.
The law has been in effect for more than 100 years, but it hasn''t been charged in recent memory.
"To my knowledge, in the 36 years I''ve been here, the adultery and fornication charge has never been levied," said Columbus Assistant Police Chief Joe Johnson.
Some laws go unenforced simply because behavior has changed. There are fewer arrests for public drunkenness, for example, because more people are getting rides home than walking like they did in years past, Johnson said.
Sexual and marital laws, however, have not been used because social thinking has changed, Johnson offered. Although society sees adultery as improper, it doesn''t see it as something that should be illegal, he said. And public opinion has become even more lenient on fornication.
But if someone files formal charges, law enforcement has to investigate.
Lashawn Williams, 33, of 294 Pilgrim Rest Road in Noxubee County and Roshanda Jackson, 30, of 183 Oliver Road, were arrested July 1 when Williams'' wife, Cortiga, pressed charges on her allegedly unfaithful husband and Jackson.
Lashawn Williams and Jackson were charged with adultery and fornication, respectively; both crimes carry the same penalty, up to $500 and jail time up to six months. Both were released July 1 on $1,000 bond, according to the Noxubee County Jail,
"We do have to follow the legal process," Johnson said. "If A and B are married, and if B signs an affidavit on A and C because they are involved, they all have to come to court."
This latest local charge of adultery isn''t the first time an old, often unenforced law has been uncovered and invoked.
In 2008, Chrissy Strickland successfully sued Melissa Simmons in Lowndes County Chancery Court for "alienation of affections" and was awarded $87,500, $30,000 in attorney fees and $500 in punitive damages.
Strickland''s husband, Chuck, cheated with Simmons, and it interfered with his ability to fulfill his legal spousal duties, according to court documents.
Still, other than a high-profile case of the same nature filed against the mistress of former Mississippi Congressman Chip Pickering, even the alienation of affection law is rarely used.
"We''ve had a couple that I remember in probably the last 10 or 15 years," said Haley Salazar, Lowndes County circuit clerk. "They don''t have happen very often."
There are others. There''s a whole section on dueling. (It''s illegal, and anyone caught participating will be barred from holding elected positions of honor.)
Intermarriage is still against the law, and it carries a hefty punishment: 10 years in the slammer.
It''s fine to have one illegitimate child, but two? That''s a punched ticket to 30 days in jail or $250.
It''s against the law to even teach the principles of polygamy. The penalty is a fine between $25 and $500 or one to six months in the county jail.
And don''t even think about seducing a woman with promises of future marriage. It can result in up to five years in prison.
Rep. Jeff Smith, D-Columbus, served on the Mississippi Code Committee from 1996 to 2004. Some laws go unchanged simply because it''s impossible to come to a consensus, he said.
Although the codes are usually reviewed every 30 years, the last time they were revised was in 1972. Many times, people can''t agree because of tradition, he noted.
"There was never any consensus among the code committee to repeal them," Smith said. "Some people just say, ''That was a good law back in 1942 or 1972, and I just don''t want to vote against it.''"
Caledonia, where Smith is town attorney, has some of its own strange laws still on the books.
"There was an old law that you couldn''t drive a car down a country road unless you had someone standing in front of it with a lantern," Smith said. "At the turn of the century cars would scare animals, so it made sense back then."
A quick drive through Caledonia indicates that everyone is breaking that one.
This story contains reporting from Dispatch writer Jason Browne.
kj commented at 7/15/2010 1:58:00 PM:
Laws have a tendency to stay on books the way that nods to the confederacy tend to stay on flags...and for the same reasons.
cmchittom commented at 7/15/2010 2:42:00 PM:
You might want to have a chat with whoever did the fact-checking for this article. I'm presuming that the comment on dueling is referring to section 19 of Article 3 of the Mississippi Constitution, which used to read "Human life shall not be imperiled by the practice of dueling; and any citizen of this state who shall hereafter fight a duel, or assist in the same as second, or send, accept, or knowingly carry a challenge therefor, whether such an act be done in the state, or out of it, or who shall go out of the state to fight a duel, or to assist in the same as second, or to send, accept, or carry a challenge, shall be disqualified from holding any office under this Constitution, and shall be disenfranchised."
Just doing a Google search for "constitution of Mississippi" found me http://www.sos.state.ms.us/pubs/constitution/constitution.asp which at the appropriate point says, "NOTE: Former Section 19 prohibited dueling and both disenfranchised and disqualified persons involved in a duel from holding public office. The repeal of Section 19 was proposed by Laws of 1977, ch. 584, Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 528, and upon ratification by the electorate on November 7, 1978, was deleted from the Constitution by proclamation of the Secretary of State on December 22, 1978."
cal commented at 7/15/2010 3:37:00 PM:
maybe if the adultery law and the alienation of affection laws were invoked more often, folks would think twice before getting involved with someone else's spouse. or, maybe a spouse would put some blinders on their wandering eyes.
when two people make vows before God and man, there SHOULD be some consequences when those vows are broken.
sharp nasal kent commented at 7/15/2010 4:54:00 PM:
Alienation of affection isn't a crime; it's a tort. Thus the civil suit with damages.
email@example.com commented at 7/15/2010 5:56:00 PM:
how in the world did someone get a law passed like that. First of all there is no such thing in the bible as common-law marriage, either you are married or not. If the law is going to fine or put someone in jail for fornication or adultery than the jails are going to be fuller than the drug dealers. There will be judges, policemen, doctors and even lawyers in jail. If a woman is scorned that bad , she should just let them have him. I recently got a divorce, and there was another woman, but I wouldn't subject myself to filing charges on the woman. The best thing I did was got out of the marriage, just that simple. Bickering and prolonging ain't worth the time. Just leave your spouse and see how quick they want to come back. Ifeel as though the law can't and shouldn't tell you who to be with, that's just too much in your business.Those that are not married but living together is fornicating too! SO WHICH ONE GOES TO JAIL?
chikna4x4 commented at 7/15/2010 10:52:00 PM:
I wish I had known of this law when my ex the "Jimmy Swaggert womanizing preacher" was busy with another man's wife, having affairs with women at camp shelby and church members.
AlixB commented at 7/16/2010 9:59:00 AM:
People in the Military are a whole different ballgame. They can be relieved of duty as well as court marshalled. I hope this lady endures and he goes to jail. I agree that if this law was used more maybe there would be less dalling......for women as well as men.
roscoe p. coltrain commented at 7/16/2010 10:31:00 AM:
Great, local politicians can whip each other in the City Hall, we can waste time and money on a bridge, you can't get anyone to catch speeders flying up and down residential street where a kid could be killed, and you can't get a vicious dog law enforced either, but God help you if you slip it to your neighbors wife with her consent.
And then we hail the Roller Babes.
You people are crazy.
chill commented at 7/16/2010 11:37:00 AM:
I commented yesterday on this article, and it was entirely appropriate.........but GUESS WHAT....the IMES machine removed my comment. I guess I didn't "toe the line" and write something they agreed with???
chill commented at 7/16/2010 11:41:00 AM:
In reply to chikna4x4.
I'm sorry you had to learn the hard way. This happens VERY often with preachers.....however most of the time it's quietly swept under the pulpit....and he moves on down the road to another church. My grandfather used to say, "When the preacher stops by, hide your wife and your wallet". Ha Ha
t3chap commented at 7/16/2010 2:17:00 PM:
Mr Putnam needs to check his facts. Intermarriage has been legal since the 12 June 1967 decision by the supreme court in the Loving v. Virginia case. Failing to know this is an example of why I don't subscribe to this newspaper.
Please be responsible in what you print, Commercial Dispatch!!!!
kat commented at 7/16/2010 6:38:00 PM:
sometimes you fall "out" of love, just like you fell in-quickly...move on with your life lady----he doesn't want you.Why embarrass yourself/family? Wouldn't you rather him leave than stay around and not even love you? He proved how much he cared about you when he hooked up with another woman........maybe this is just the FIRST time he got caught---but if he did it before .......he WILL do it again !
stormy commented at 7/17/2010 2:57:00 AM:
I for one stand up and say "Way to go girl!" She has not once said (that I have heard) she wanted the cheating skallywag back, just that he get his dues. I agree with her, if you want to sleep around, be man enough to get out of the marriage you are in first! Old time values are not bad just because they are old. Family is the back bone of this nation and look at what it has become when the FAMILY broke down because of the "it feels good to me" attitude and the new moral code has come in to play. I never did understand the thought of "everybody is doing it, so it must be ok".
roscoe p. coltrain commented at 7/17/2010 9:35:00 AM:
Has it dawned on any of you that this might just be another case of a woman using the justice system to get her revenge? If she isn't trying to "wake him up" then what is her motive? Revenge?
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