- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 20, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - An assistant state attorney general told a Jackson jury that the district attorney in Mississippi’s largest county inappropriately - and illegally - gave advice to a criminal defendant.

Assistant Attorney General Bob Anderson told the jury Tuesday he would prove that Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith conspired to hinder the drug dealing prosecution of Christopher Butler. The jury was selected Monday.

Anderson said that when Smith demanded to visit Butler in jail earlier this year, he called Butler his “client,” proving that Smith was inappropriately advising a criminal defendant his office, and then the attorney general’s office, was supposed to be prosecuting.

“His client is the people of Hinds County, not Christopher Butler,” Anderson said, according to an account of the trial’s opening statements in The Clarion-Ledger (https://on.thec-l.com/2hXGTVk ).

Smith’s attorney Jim Waide told the jury in his opening statement to keep political agendas in mind. Waide said there is great personal vindictiveness between the attorney general’s office and Smith.

Waide said it would make sense for Smith to have called Butler his “client,” because at that point, Smith had learned of a raid on Butler’s jail cell that he felt was improper. Smith was trying to protect the inmate’s constitutional rights, Waide argued.

Smith and Assistant District Attorney Jamie McBride were both accused of hindering prosecution, but charges against McBride were dropped Monday.

Any conviction would remove Smith as district attorney.

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