Harris to be released from state mental hospital

Staff Writer

Steven Jessie Harris will soon be released from the Mississippi State Hospital after being ruled incompetent to stand trial for his crimes in 2006.

Harris was charged with one count of murder, three counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, two counts of armed robbery, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of shooting into an automobile.
Clay County Sheriff Eddie Scott said the exact date and time that Harris will be released hasn’t been determined yet.

According to Clay County Circuit Court documents, Harris, who suffers from schizophrenia, was found incompetent to stand trial and was held in the Clay County Jail.

On June 13, 2016, the Clay County Chancery Court committed Harris to the East Mississippi State Hospital where he was issued a 90 day evaluation in which he was ruled still incompetent to stand trial. Both the United States and Mississippi Supreme Court require a criminal defendant to be mentally competent to stand trial, and the Mississippi Supreme Court has held that in a situation where a defendant is not competent to stand trial, the defendant cannot be held indefinitely and must instead have the defendant civilly committed. Harris has been civilly committed, but there is no-long term mental health facility in the state to house him.

Scott said that patients generally stay at the hospital for 45 days, and with all 82 counties in Mississippi using the hospital, it stayed at maximum capacity.

Scott said he was working to inform all law enforcement of Harris’s release and keep informed on his location after he’s released to hopefully prevent him from hurting himself or others again.

“There are some who are talking about the injustice of him sitting in jail for twelve years, but what about the justice for the victims?” Scott said. “There were three cops that were shot at, a man was murdered and a lady was kidnapped, plus he shot at several other folks. What about justice for them?”

Scott said nothing could not be placed in jail or committed to a hospital again unless he committed another crime.

“We’re not happy about it, but our hands are tied,” he said. “It’s no longer a criminal case.”

Scott said lack of mental health facilities in Mississippi posed a big problem for law enforcement throughout the state.

“Myself and other sheriffs in Mississippi have been contacting legislators about this problem,” he said. “We’re dealing with more and mental subjects than we have dealt with before. I transport more people with mental issues to different facilities for evaluations than I transport criminal inmates. We’re in charge of protecting the community, and this is a major chink in our armor. How am I supposed to protect others when I don’t have the mental health resources that I need?”

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