CLAY COUNTY, Miss. -- After 11 years in jail without a trial, murder charges have been dropped against a man diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Steven Jessie Harris was arrested in October 2005 and charged with murder in the death of his father, 72-year-old Malichi Randle.
According to Clay County Sheriff Eddie Scott, Harris killed his father and then walked to a local Sonic Drive-in with a .22 rifle in his hand, opening fire on cars that passed by, before allegedly carjacking and stabbing a Mississippi State student and kidnapping the female passenger. He allegedly led deputies on a chase down a highway in the stolen vehicle before stopping and "the shootout began." Scott said Harris shot three deputies before being wounded in the incident.
Harris was indicted in 2006 for murder, three counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, two counts of armed robbery, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of shooting into a vehicle.
He was housed in the Clay County Detention Center.
In 2007, Harris was admitted to the State Hospital at Whitfield for a mental evaluation, which concluded he “was demonstrating symptoms of a major mental illness” — schizophrenia.
In a final report on April 13, 2008, doctors concluded Harris was incompetent to waive his constitutional rights or to stand trial.
District Attorney Scott Colom, who was not the DA when Harris was indicted, previously told The Clarion-Ledger that Harris had "fallen through the cracks."
Colom was not available for comment Tuesday.
The Clarion-Ledger wrote a story about how Harris had spent 11 years in jail without a trial, and last June, Harris was transferred to East Mississippi State Hospital, according to his attorney, Carlos Moore.
Tuesday, all charges against Harris were dismissed without prejudice, citing his mental status.
"Dr. King once said, 'The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,'" Moore said. "Today, justice was finally served. After 11 years of a man sitting in jail with out a trial, his charges are finally dismissed. The family is relieved that their loved one has finally received justice; however, they remain disappointed that it took so long for the law to be followed."
Moore said Harris is no longer at East Mississippi but remains "voluntarily committed to a state hospital."
Scott said he expected Harris to be released soon and lamented that law enforcement was "not happy" with Harris' potential release. Scott said, in his opinion, Harris needs to be committed to a long-term facility. However, there is not a long-term mental health facility in Mississippi.
"East Mississippi kept him for an extended amount of time, and he's currently being held at another facility for a short period of time before they get him ready to be released, which could be any day now," Scott said. "Law enforcement is not happy with it at all. He killed his daddy, shot cops, kidnapped somebody and to turn him back loose on the streets, they're no justice for the victims.
"We could run into him at Walmart. We're not happy about it at all, but there's nothing we can do."
Moore stressed the fact that Harris was never found guilty, saying, "In America, citizens are assumed innocent until proven guilty. Regardless of what people may believe, my client was never found guilty."
Harris' twin brother, Steven Jeffrey, praised Moore's work in getting his brother freed and thanked God and family members for their support. He said he plans to care for his brother and ensure that he takes his medicine.
His brother is hardly the only person who has been held in jail for years without a trial, he said.
"It sheds light on the criminal justice system," he said. "There's no justifiable reason for holding a person for that long."
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