In the spring of 1992, Dorothy Brister, a bail bondsman and confidential informant for the Jackson, Mississippi police department as well as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, was scheduled to testify against a suspected drug dealer.
On May 26, a man posing as a police officer knocked on her door and when Brister’s 12-year-old daughter Fredrika opened, he flashed a silver badge and came inside. There, he told Brister he was taking her into protective custody.
Brister was suspicious, but the man persuaded her to get into her rental car parked outside. There, however, she attempted to flee and was shot once in the neck. Brister’s live-in boyfriend, Arthur Gray, saw the shooting and attempted to catch the fleeing gunman, but was unsuccessful.
Three years later, in 1995, Brister, whose left side was left partially paralyzed by the shooting, was at the Hinds County Detention Center posting a bond when she heard some men talking and recognized a voice as that of her attacker. When she looked up, she saw Anderson, 32, the assistant manager of a fast-food restaurant, and believed he was her assailant.
Brister and her daughter identified Anderson in a photo lineup. Gray was not asked to view Anderson.
Anderson was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, impersonating a police officer and burglary of an occupied building with intent to kidnap.
Anderson’s first trial ended in a hung jury in February, 1997 and a mistrial was declared. He was retried in April, 1997 and convicted, based on the testimony of Brister and her daughter. Anderson was sentenced as a habitual offender to 15 years in prison on the burglary charge. The other two counts were dismissed post-trial because the statute of limitations had elapsed.
In September, 1999, the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed Anderson’s conviction and he did not seek review in the Mississippi Supreme Court. Anderson, who had remained free on bond pending appeal, then surrendered to begin serving his sentence.
In May, 2001, Anderson filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, alleging that he had met Brister’s boyfriend, Arthur Gray, in prison and that Gray told him that he saw the shooter, that it was not Anderson, and that he would have so testified if called at Anderson’s trial.
U.S. District Judge William H. Barbour granted the petition on October 21, 2002, and vacated Anderson’s conviction. Barbour ruled that Anderson had been denied effective assistance of counsel at trial because his lawyer failed to pursue Gray as a witness and on appeal because his lawyer failed to raise a claim of ineffective assistance at trial for not pursing Gray.
The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the decision on July 8, 2003.
In 2004, Anderson posted bond and was released pending a retrial. In January, 2007, the charges were dismissed.
– Maurice Possley