Steve Rogers

About Steve Rogers

Assistant News Director/Assignment Editor; degree in finance and administration from Yale University; 35 years experience in journalism.

Starkville Man’s Disorderly Conduct Conviction Overturned

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) — The state Court of Appeals throws out a man’s disorderly conduct conviction after finding police violated his rights.

In August 2010, Geno Harrell was walking his two pit pulls on leashes on Louisville Street when Starkville police officer Shawn Word stopped him about the safety of the dogs. Police Chief David L:indley had asked for the safety check after seeing Harrell walking and fearing the man did not have adequate control over the dogs and that they might pose a hazard to pedestrians.

When stopped by Word, Harrell refused to provide his ID and eventually was charged with disorderly conduct and failure to obey a police officer.

He was convicted in city court and fined $500. He appealed to circuit court where Judge Lee Coleman upheld the conviction but reduced the fine to $250.

In today’s ruling, the state appeals court said police had no legitimate reason to try to obtain information from Harrell because he wasn’t suspected of breaking any law. Anything that happened during the stop, such as Harrell’s disobedience, was the result of an illegal search and seizure in violation of his 4th amendment rights.

In a dissenting opinion, one judge said police have a right to protect public safety and should have been able to question Harrell under the city’s vicious dog ordinance.