Defense Lawyers Seek Toxicology Report on Off-Duty Trooper
By Josh Mitchell
Corinth Today News Editor
The attorneys for the suspect charged with capital murder for allegedly shooting an off-duty Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper have requested a preliminary hearing be held in Tippah County Justice Court in the next 14 days.
Attorneys Bill Wheeler and Jamie Franks of Tupelo are representing the suspect, Rienzi resident Troy Anthony Eaton, 43, who is accused of killing off-duty Trooper Josh Smith, 32, in Tippah County’s Big Hatchie Bottom on Sept. 30.
Eaton’s attorneys want to review toxicology reports on Smith and possibly others to determine if people had consumed drugs and alcohol. They also want to see the coroner’s report.
“Our early investigation has shown ample evidence to support a self-defense claim in this situation,” said Wheeler.
A “multitude of witnesses” support the claim that Eaton was exercising his legal right to self defense, the attorneys said.
Information from the coroner’s report could be made public during the preliminary hearing, according to the attorneys. At the preliminary hearing, the state prosecution would have to show it has probable cause to proceed with the case against Eaton, Franks said.
The defense also has the option to call witnesses and cross examine the state’s witnesses, he added. The judge would determine whether the state has probable cause and a bond hearing could also be held.
Eaton was being held without bond in the Tippah County Jail, but he was beat up in jail a few days after he turned himself in and had to be treated with staples around one of his eyes, Franks said. Eaton had to be put into another facility for safety, said Franks, adding that it is his “understanding” the FBI is investigating the alleged beating.
Eaton’s legal team also wants to know what kind of duty Smith was assigned to with the highway patrol. They noted that Smith was reportedly assigned to light duty after a foot operation and had been working at the driver’s license office in Corinth.
The charging affidavit states that Smith was acting in his official capacity as a Mississippi state trooper when he was killed. But given Smith’s reported foot operation and assignment to light duty, Eaton’s attorneys want to know if Smith was even able to be a patrolman at the time.
Furthermore, the attorneys said Eaton did not have a problematic past. However, Franks said other people who were at the scene, including Smith, need to have their pasts examined to see if they had been involved in any prior altercations or violent incidents.
Eaton and Smith had not met prior to this incident, Wheeler noted.
Eaton is also charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting Rickie Dale Vick, 38, of Michigan City, who had non life-threatening injuries.
Smith had been a trooper since 2007 and is remembered by many as a family man, dedicated officer and a good person who loved helping others.
Law enforcement from around the state, as well as Gov. Phil Bryant, attended Smith’s memorial service in Corinth.
Officials have released limited information on the case, saying the investigation is ongoing.
Corinth Today has filed a public records request to obtain a possible incident report from law enforcement officials.