Teen spent a year and a half in jail with no indictment

Prosecutors have yet to present William Haymon's case to a grand jury.

Holmes County Courthouse in Lexington, Mississippi (via Google Maps Street View)

William Haymon celebrated his 16th birthday and his 511th day in jail on July 14th. Haymon has been in the rural Lexington, Mississippi jail for months and there is no telling when he will be released.

Mississippi has no rules regarding the length of time a person can be detained without being formally charged. Haymon cannot be released on bail, though he is technically innocent in the eyes of the law.

Prosecutors have yet to present Haymon’s case to a grand jury so it can consider whether the state has sufficient evidence to pursue a conviction against Haymon.

READ MORE: Michigan teen jailed for not doing schoolwork to be released

Akillie Malone-Oliver, the local district attorney who prosecutes the state’s 21st judicial district, blames the delay on heavy turnover within the city’s police force. But the problem is bigger than that and is characteristic of ongoing concerns facing Mississippians who have the misfortune of being arrested, according to experts.

Haymon’s attorney, Lawrence Blackmon, has alleged that the county does not have grounds to hold him. Blackmon asserts that his client is being illegally detained and that his constitutional right to a speedy trial is being violated.

He is concerned that Haymon, who would be entering the 10th grade in the fall, will experience long-lasting harm due to his prolonged imprisonment during his youth.

Sebrenda Tillman, Haymon’s mother, voiced her concerns to The Appeal. “As long as he’s been there, what are you holding him for? Somebody ain’t doing their job,” she complained.

In June 2013, when Haymon was 13-years-old, he was arrested for allegedly robbing a senior citizen at gunpoint. He waived a preliminary hearing and was released on a $25,000 bond.

However, in February 2019, Haymon arrested again for aggravated assault involving a gun. State law prevented him from being granted bail for the second alleged crime.

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After the public defender assigned to Haymon’s aggravated assault case died in January, Blackmon agreed to represent the teenager for free. Despite filing a petition and a motion seeking Haymon’s release, the teenager remains in jail.

Circuit Court Judge, Jannie Lewis-Blackmon, no relation to Haymon’s attorney, ruled that Haymon’s right to a speedy trial had not been violated. According to a transcript of the proceeding, Judge Lewis-Blackmon said that “the reason for the delay outweighs the length of the delay.”

Due to Covid-19, Haymon’s mother, Sebrenda Tillman has been unable to visit him since March. Since his incarceration, Tillman has celebrated his last two birthdays by putting money in his account.

“He’s trying to hold up,” she told The Appeal. “I worry about him, some nights I can’t sleep because he’s my baby,” she said.

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