Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

12/31/02

Hearing will determine if Cameron Todd gets new trial

The former Houston police officer was convicted in 1999 of sexual battery against a minor.

BY JEREMY HUDSON

Daily Journal

HOUSTON - Cameron Todd's efforts toward vindication will go through yet another legal channel Friday when a circuit court judge decides whether he will stand trial on sexual battery charges for a third time.

Todd, 34, the former Houston police officer convicted of sexual battery against a teenage girl, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the acts said to have taken place in 1997.

A mistrial was declared in Todd's first trial after a jury could not reach a unanimous verdict, but he was convicted during his second trial in 1999.

In 2001 the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed that conviction, but recently ordered that Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey hold an evidentiary hearing Jan. 3 to determine if evidence warrants a new trial.

"We tried to introduce a statement from (the victim) with what is purported to be her signature saying she lied and none of this happened," said Jim Waide, Todd's attorney. "(Timmy) Hester said he forged it, and the judge didn't allow us to use it. He said it was a forgery."

Since that decision, Waide said a handwriting expert has examined the letter and determined it is signed by the victim. According to the case file, Hester is an acquaintance of the victim.

Waide said Hester has also recanted his story and said he was forced by prosecutors to testify that he was the person who signed the letter. Thursday's hearing in Houston will be centered mainly on that letter.

"That letter clearly proves my innocence," Todd said in a telephone conversation from the Chickasaw County Jail on Friday.

District Attorney Jim Hood said when the letter was sent to the state crime lab for handwriting analysis, the results returned were inconclusive.

"This is the most bizarre case I've ever dealt with," said Hood. "The (Todd) family has sent out about 5,000 brochures, they've got an Internet site, they've got all these e-mails out there."

Hood said the letter acquired by the defense was signed by a man who was not even a witness in the first trial.

"The family keeps saying it's all a political ordeal," Hood said. "But the victim wasn't even from here. ... She was a child under the Department of Human Services custody. The defendant was from Arkansas. He had just moved in here and started a karate school. There wasn't anything political about it.

"(Friday) is just a simple, everyday hearing we have on irrelevant allegation to the facts of the case by a witness who has already testified under oath to the fact that they have obtained a letter allegedly from him stating that he didn't testify to the truth," Hood said.

Cameron has served the majority of his sentence at the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs, but was transported to Houston last week in preparation for the hearing.

Todd maintains that Hood, "used the system to further his career," and pressured Hester into testifying against Todd.

"The significant difference in this is that my wife is Asian," said Todd, originally from California, of his wife Suk-Hee. "We were in a small town in the South. If this had been anybody else, this issue never would have gone to trial. We have been tangled up in the good old boy network."

Todd said he knew the victim only because she called him at the police department, often tipping him off to illegal activity.

During Todd's first trial, the victim, 13 at the time the offenses are said to have occurred, testified she left her home in Todd's patrol car twice to have sex with him. A fellow officer also testified he drove Todd to the girl's residence at least one time and Todd asked him to leave and wait for him to call to be picked up.

Todd denies he had sexual relations with the girl and predicts Thursday's hearing will help clear his name.

"This is the worst crime you can be in prison for," Todd said. "But I feel like I will be vindicated."

Daily Journal staff writer Sandi P. Beason contributed to this story.

UPDATE:  The Supreme Court of Mississippi has decided not to allow the letter into evidence. Cameron remains in jail.

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