Criminal Procedure

A federal judge in Mississippi has ruled that a Mississippi county and its sheriff violated the constitutional rights of a woman held in jail for three months without seeing a judge.

In a brief order on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock found liability on Jessica Jauch’s 14th Amendment claim, report the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Associated Press. Aycock ruled after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans reinstated Jauch’s case.

Jauch, of Rankin, Mississippi, was held based on a drug indictment in Choctaw County, Mississippi, where the circuit court meets only twice per year. Twice-per-year court sessions are the norm in many rural Mississippi counties, according to the Associated Press. Court sessions are infrequent because district judges travel from county to county to hear cases, the Washington Post reported in 2016 coverage of Jauch’s case.

While in jail, Jauch temporarily transferred custody of her daughter to her mother. Jauch posted bail after a public defender was assigned to her case. The drug charge was dismissed after a video showed Jauch borrowing $40 from the undercover informant, rather than selling pills as prosecutors had alleged, Jauch’s lawyer told the Washington Post.

Aycock had initially tossed Jauch’s lawsuit for alleged constitutional violations in 2016, ruling Jauch wasn’t entitled to see a judge until the court’s next meeting because she already had been indicted by a grand jury on a felony drug charge. State law didn’t require a court appearance after an indictment.

The 5th Circuit reversed in an October 2017 decision covered by the Associated Press. The 5th Circuit said the excessive detention deprived Jauch of liberty without legal or due process. “Heaping these consequences on an accused and blithely waiting months before affording the defendant access to the justice system is patently unfair in a society where guilt is not presumed,” the court said.

In March, the 5th Circuit rejected a petition to rehear the case en banc. Six judges dissented from the refusal to rehear the case.