People who watched the trial and followed the details remember Hattiesburg Attorney and Public Defender Alethea Shaw as the as the person who was presiding over the inmates while they were voting by absentee. Witness testimony put Shaw with the inmates as they voted, while Notary Claudia Hibbler went room to room notarizing ballots after they had been signed. A notary is supposed to witness the signatures; however as absentee ballots were inspected, it was discovered that Hibbler notarized a ballot without a signature. Which begs the question, did she witness any of the signatures?
According to court testimony, Hibbler left the jail with the ballots and delivered them to City Hall. That isn't legal procedure. Statute requires the voter to mail the ballot back when it was mailed to them. In the post election trial it was uncovered that the jailbird ballots had been opened and tampered with after they left the jail in the possession of Claudia Hibbler. In addition to that, there are numerous legal issues with the jailhouse absentee votes. One person who voted was a minor at seventeen years of age, and several more were disenfranchised felons. Lastly, state law does not even permit inmates to vote absentee.
Johniece Durpee prepared the typed requests for the jailbird ballots, notarized the requests, and delivered them to city hall personally. This begs the same question as Hibbler. Did Johniece witness the signatures? At trial, a rather comical display occurred when Dupree attorney Precious Martin stated that Mrs. Dupree could not find her notary book as a result of the tornado which hit in February, months before the election.Regardless, delivering the absentee ballot requests for the jailbirds did not meet the statutory requirement; nor did her personally prepared absentee ballot requests.
In a not so surprising turn of events, it has been discovered that Public Defender Alethea Shaw, who is a resident in Lamar County (outside the city), cast a ballot using the address of her parents at 814 Martin Luther King Avenue on June 4th. Shaw resides and is homestead at 408 Green Hills Drive in Lamar county. What's even more intriguing is that Shaw voted June 4th, but she didn't cast a ballot on September 24th. Shaw is appointed by the mayor and approved by council. It is anticipated that her career as a public defender is over, and she will certainty face a bar complaint filed with the Mississippi Bar Association.
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