JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The District Attorney for Hinds County is now under new leadership.
Former managing attorney at the Mississippi Southern Poverty Law Center Jody Owen was sworn in this afternoon.
Attorney Owens was nicknamed by many supporters as a progressive voice in law mainly for his stances on drug offenses and addressing Mississippi’s excessive disenfranchise crime preventing those incarcerated from ever voting again.
In a packed courtroom people including members of Hinds County government welcomed their next District Attorney.
“We have to make sure we are properly assuring people be prosecuted quickly enough where we’re not violating speedy trial violations,” District Attorney Owens explained. “And the jails not overcrowded.”
Leading up to his opening statements Attorney Owens was praised for his past work by former law school classmates and colleagues. One comparing his work mentality to Michael Jordan.
Attorney Owens takes issue with Mississippi having 22 laws when if broken, offenders are permanently stripped of the right to vote. That rule comes from an 1890 ratified state constitution leading the state to triple the national average in disenfranchisement.
“You can actually write a bad check and permanently lose your right,” District Attorney Owens argued. Pay Larceny, or other crimes of theft. I don’t think we should charge individuals permanently for the right to vote for these types of crimes. Once you serve your time you’re complete, nobody should have the authority to disenfranchise you.”
Attorney Owens also took aim at the state’s drug laws he finds harsh. In Mississippi possession of less than one pound of marijuana can land you up to eight years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
“There are certain amounts that will be prosecuted if it’s intention is to sell and distribute,” District Attorney Ownes. “But if it’s simple possession, no that’s going to be diversion in drug courts there. Just doesn’t make sense and not smart justice, we need to get people the help they deserve.”
We also spoke to District Attorney Owens on sexual harassment complaints against him brought up back in October from former colleagues at the Southern Poverty Law Center. He denies the allegations and said Hinds County is moving forward with new training methods in place to make sure all employees are free of harassment.