Tuesday, January 3, 2017
JACKSON Former Assistant District Attorney Gale Walker took the stand Tuesday afternoon to testify against Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, who is accused of trying to help an indicted man, Christopher Butler, stay out of jail. During the prosecution’s rebuttal stage, Walker told the jury of her time prosecuting Butler on drug charges, saying she believed she had a strong case against him until the DA removed her.
A Jackson man says MBN framed him for drug charges, which the agency vehemently denies. Illustration by Zeakyy Harrington
“That file had everything we needed to go to trial and to win it,” Walker said of the drug case against Butler. She testified soon after the defense had rested its case. Smith himself elected not to take the stand in his own defense.
Walker explained the road that led to her termination and current federal wrongful termination suit against Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith.
“When it came to Christopher Butler,” Walker told the jury, “District Attorney Smith became a totally different person. He took on a different personality, he had a different driver, he had a different motivation, ambition and goals. Nothing stood in the way of him and getting rid of that case for Christopher Butler. No one or nothing.”
In her Oct. 31, 2016, amended complaint against Smith for wrongful termination, she stated that he seldom paid attention to her cases, but that Butler’s prosecution was an exception.
In her testimony today, Walker explained that Smith recruited her to work in his Hinds County office in 2012 until she was fired in January 2014 during an after-hours baby shower for a coworker at Babalu. She said an investigator from the district attorney’s office walked her to her car in the parking lot, delivered the letter telling her she was fired and even handed her a box of her belongings from the office. The reason, Walker said in court on Tuesday, was because of her reluctance to follow Smith’s lead on the Christopher Butler case.
An archive of reporting on controversies surrounding Hinds County district attorneys, present and past.
“This was the hammer. That’s when I noticed that his attitude began to change towards me,” Walker said.
She commented several times during her testimony that she had doubts about Smith’s claims that the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics had planted drugs in the home that Butler shared then with Kwanza Hilliard. MBN reported finding the drugs in an ottoman in a 2011 raid of the home. Smith has said that security video would show that MBN planted the drugs, but that visual evidence has not emerged publicly to date, including during his trial.
Walker said a “series of events, strange events started happening” to her because she would not follow Smith’s wishes and help get Butler’s charges dismissed. She said people visited courtrooms while she worked, flashing gun signs to her. At one point, she said, someone vandalized her parking name tag at the courthouse. She said she repeatedly asked the district attorney to investigate, with little results.
“He had no right to do this because of Christopher Butler,” Walker said of Smith.
Walker, after being fired, filed first with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Smith responded, indicating that it was because she wrote some bad checks in the 1990s and once used the district attorney’s office letterhead in a personal business transaction to her storage-unit company. Walker filed a complaint in Hinds County Circuit Court including an anonymous letter to the public defender, pointing out her previous bad checks, information only accessible by three people in the DA’s office, including Smith and Deondra Parker, she said.
Parker’s name had come up earlier today in testimony by Robert “Too Sweet” Henderson because she is the mother of Darnell Turner children. Turner, who also goes by the last name Dixon, was included in the State’s original arrest affidavit claiming that Smith had assisted him with charges as well as Butler, but dropped by the time the grand jury handed down its Smith indictment.
Walker said she was suspicious of the anonymous letter, considering that Smith, Parker and another unnamed woman in the district attorney’s office had access to the bad-check database.
In her complaint against Smith, Walker dedicates a whole section to the Butler case.
“Defendant Smith discussed issues about this case with Plaintiff, claiming that Butler was wrongfully charged,” Walker stated in her complaint against the DA. “Defendant Smith uncharacteristically wanted to discuss strategy to obtain a dismissal of the case against Butler. Plaintiff became suspicious of Defendant Smith’s interest in this particular case and became uncomfortable as Defendant Smith’s goal was contrary to the duties of a prosecutor.”
On cross-examination today, Smith’s attorney, James Waide, pointed out that Walker’s amended complaint included a major addition from the one she initially had filed a year before—the information about the Butler case.
Walker responded that it was because the Butler case “had everything to do with (her firing).”
Much of the Butler documentation was under seal and blocked from public view when Walker filed her original complaint in July 2015, and became public in recent months since she filed the earlier complaint.
The court took an early recess today after both the prosecution and defense rested their presentations. Tomorrow will include closing remarks, starting at 9 a.m.