Judge in Oxford murder case recuses himself

Update: 

The new judge in the case, John Gregory, has denied Kinne’s bond.

Original Report: 

The presiding judge in the murder case involving an Oxford police officer has recused himself. 

Matthew Kinne, the now-former OPD officer accused of murdering 32-year-old Dominique Clayton, made an appearance in court on Wednesday, but his bond hearing was postponed. Judge Andrew Howorth explained that the state requested additional time to determine if bond should be recommended or denied, and the defense attorneys and prosecutors were reportedly in agreement to postpone the hearing. 

Clayton’s mother, Bessie, was upset after it was stated that bond was being considered and voiced her displeasure to reporters outside of the courthouse on the Oxford Square. In her remarks, she demanded that Howorth be taken off the case saying “that judge needs to go.”

Howorth has now decided to recuse himself, stating that he doesn’t want the focus to shift away from the facts and the law in this case. In a letter to the Circuit Clerk’s Office, Howorth said that while it is an unusual situation, he doesn’t want public confusion to impact the trial. 

“It is unusual, to say the least, that family members of crime victims (who are themselves crime victims) would seek removal of a presiding judge. However, when a family member is violently killed, relatives and loved ones should not necessarily be expected to behave rationally. Statements made to the media whether motivated by grief, anger, fear, confusion, or ignorance are repeated by the media. Then those statements meld their way into and through social media, where they then apparently are often considered to be facts. Thereafter, public confusion or misunderstanding has an actual, genuine risk of impacting fairness at trial.”

To the extent that any of these things may cause the focus of the legal proceedings to shift away from the facts and the law, and to the presiding judge, and have the potential of negatively impacting fairness, a solution may be rendered when the presiding judge steps aside. It is for these reasons that the undersigned judge recuses himself from any further proceeding related to this case.”

At a press conference announcing Kinne’s arrest, OPD Interim Police Chief Jeff McCutchen said that the department wouldn’t “hide behind their badge”, and on Wednesday, he said that Kinne should remain locked up. 

“As I said in my earlier statement, we are frustrated with today’s hearing regarding the issue of bond,” he said. “There is NO ‘reasonable’ bond, which can be set in this case.  Matthew Kinne should not be released.  He is a danger to our community and should not be released.  We share in the frustrations of the community, stand with, and support the Clayton Family.  This is about justice for Dominique Clayton.”

Authorities have not confirmed details related to Clayton’s death, but multiple reports indicate that she was shot in the back of the head at her Oxford home while she was sleeping on Sunday and that her body was found by one of her four children. Kinne and Clayton were romantically involved.

Kinne is behind bars in Panola County, and he has been terminated from the Oxford Police Department.

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has been called in to conduct the investigation.