Outburst in court may have played part in mistrial decision - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Outburst in court may have played part in mistrial decision

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James Willie is accused of killing two people alongside Mississippi highways in May 2012. James Willie is accused of killing two people alongside Mississippi highways in May 2012.
TUNICA COUNTY, MS -

(WMC-TV) - A Tunica County judge declared a mistrial Wednesday for James Willie, the man accused of murdering two people on Mississippi highways in May 2012.

Witnesses say an outburst made by Willie in court Tuesday could have played a part in the judge's decision to call for a mistrial.

On multiple occasions, Willie reportedly attempted to speak out in his defense without permission from the court. Deputies say he was warned and even shocked via his ankle monitor in front of the jury after trying to object to testimony given by Tunica County Sheriff KC Hamp.

"Yesterday, when he made his motion and stood up, he had already obtained two warnings from the officers. And for us to maintain the dignity and protection, as well as the court officer and the general public as put in policy and procedures, he was tased," said Chief Deputy Randy Stewart, Tunica County Sheriff's Office.

Willie was wearing a device that sends an eight second shock when a button is pushed. It is typically worn by defendants in high profile-cases.

A key witness in the case, who was expected to testify against Willie, was upset Wednesday morning, too. Sources say she complained about an indirect threat made toward her. It is unclear if that played any role in the judge's decision to call a mistrial.

Despite the mistrial, District Attorney Brenda Mitchell is still confident about her case against Willie.

"I feel confident with my case," she said. "I feel that we have a strong case, and we're ready to go to trial when the judge reschedules."

It is possible that there will be a request to move the trial out of Tunica County.

Willie is accused of murdering Thomas Schlender in Panola County and Lori Ann Carswell in Tunica County in May 2012. The mistrial was declared during the trial on the charge connected to Carswell's death.

Carswell had left her job for the night at a Tunica casino and stopped at a gas station. That was the last time she was seen before she was found dead alongside Highway 713. Her car was still running and the lights were flashing.

Just days before Carswell's death, Schlender was found shot to death in his car along Interstate 55 in Panola County.

Willie was later arrested on an unrelated rape charge. A gun and bullet casing belonging to Willie were found to be a match to the evidence collected from the scene of the roadside killings.

Investigators believe robbery was the motive behind both murders.

Willie faces a capital murder charge in Panola County. That case is expected to be heard later this summer.

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