The law is tedious. There’s no shortage of bizarre, outdated local laws throughout the United States. Did you know it’s illegal to run out of gas while driving in Youngstown, Ohio? There are many other odd laws that could have been made. An obscure Mississippi state law allows a prisoner to be kept behind bars indefinitely.
Frederick Bell has spent 31 years behind bars
Frederick Bell, aged 19, entered Grenada County, Mississippi on May 6, 1991 armed with a pistol of.22 caliber. Anthony Doss was his accomplice and he planned to rob this establishment. It’s unclear when or why things when south, but Bell shot the cashier, 21-year-old Bert Bell (of no relation to the perpetrator) nine times. He fled with a.38-caliber pistol, a gun box, and some cash.
Bell and three other men fled the scene. Bell and three other men made their escape to Memphis, Tennessee where they decided to rob another store. In the end, he shot Tommy White, a 20-year old cashier. They were finally arrested at a Memphis home. After two years of due process, the courts found Bell guilty of capital murder—meaning he would be put to death.
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For 20 years, Bell’s legal team repeatedly appealed his death sentence, sending the prisoner for countless evaluations. In 2013, the state changed Bell’s sentence to life in prison, declaring that his mental state left him ineligible for capital punishment. Bell was finally released after only two years. The parole board finally authorized Bell’s release from prison in August.
“In our opinion, Bell has been rehabilitated, and at this point, we feel that parole supervision will be more beneficial than further incarceration,”In a statement, Chairman Jeffery Belk stated that he was resigning on August 25. It’s clear that this decision wasn’t made lightly, so there’s been some confusion as to why Bell is still sitting behind bars. As it turns out, Bell’s release has been delayed indefinitely due to a longstanding Mississippi law.
Frederick Bell’s Release Delayed By Red Tape
In Mississippi, before an inmate convicted of a capital crime can be released on parole, a newspaper local to the area where the crime was committed must run a notice of parole for two consecutive weeks prior to the inmate’s release. Our research shows that Mississippi is the only state to have a formal law like this. While it’s not widely known, the law is still strictly adhered to in the state.
The practice stands so that the community has a chance to provide their input on the parole board’s decision. It is stated in the official Mississippi State Parole Board Policies & ProceduresThe board is a committee. “community opposition”Consider these factors when deciding whether an inmate is eligible for release.
“Any inmate convicted of a capital offense shall not be (initially) considered for parole until notice concerning his/her possible parole is published at least once a week for two (2) weeks in a newspaper published and having general circulation in the county where the crime was committed,”This is what the law says.
Bell has not been able to move forward with this process. Although the paper was approved for release in late august, it was not published by the Grenada County newspaper. Grenada Star, still hasn’t run his parole notice. The paper’s publisher, Adam Prestridge, told Vice NewsThe parole board has not yet reached out to him. Until the board gives his paper the go-ahead, there isn’t anything he can do.
Frederick Bell’s Future Is Uncertain
Sen. Angela Hill said that she was aware of the situation on a local radio program. “Over the weekend, we confirmed that the notice was not run in the local paper where the murder occurred, as required,”Hill observed. “We contacted the Attorney General’s Office, and the Attorney General’s Office indicated to us that she had contacted the parole board and that he would not be released unless or until the proper notification to the community was run in the local paper.”
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It’s unclear why the parole board hasn’t moved forward with the newspaper notice, but the longer it waits, the longer it will be before Bell’s release. “If we receive something by our deadline of 5 p.m. on Thursday, it would run the next immediate Wednesday, as we are a weekly publication. It would run for two consecutive weeks, 30 days prior to his release,”Prestridge spoke Vice.
Yet, even if the board does eventually send notice, there’s still the obstacle of community judgement. There’s been significant community opposition to Bell’s release. The victims’ families and state workers alike have been outspoken against the parole board’s decision. The only thing that has impeded the floodgates opening is the delay in publishing the case. It is likely that the parole board will be forced to reconsider its original decision once it opens up the channels for community input.