- Associated Press - Monday, June 13, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A Mississippi man who has been jailed nearly 11 years without going to trial will be transferred to a state mental health facility, attorneys said Monday.

Special Chancery Judge Thomas B. Storey on Monday approved the transfer of Steven Jessie Harris out of the Clay County Jail when a bed becomes available at either East Mississippi State Hospital or at the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield.

Harris’ new defense attorney, Carlos Moore, told The Associated Press that getting a bed could take weeks.

“We’re very happy to see that my client will receive the treatment he has so desperately needed the last 11 years,” said Moore, who started representing Harris last week, two years after Harris’ previous attorney retired.

The Clarion-Ledger reported (https://on.thec-l.com/1UrfPNc) Harris was diagnosed with schizophrenia years ago. Citing concerns about his client’s privacy, Moore told AP that is the “alleged diagnosis.”

Harris is charged with murder in the October 2005 death of his father. He faces other charges for alleged actions after the slaying, including three counts of aggravated assault on law enforcement officers and two counts of kidnapping.

Moore credits the new district attorney who took office this year, Scott Colom, for making sure a chancery court followed through with a recommendation a circuit court made years ago, to get Harris committed to a mental health facility. Circuit courts handle criminal cases, and chancery courts handle mental health commitments.

Clay County Sheriff Eddie Scott said the county has been paying for Harris’ medication. He said Harris had been found incompetent to stand trial in 2008, after a mental evaluation.

Scott said that with crowded state mental facilities, he and other Mississippi sheriffs face a dilemma about what to do with people who are charged with crimes but also are found incompetent to stand trial.

“What do we do with them?” Scott said in an interview Monday. “That’s the question every sheriff in the state has got.”

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus.


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