Court of Appeals affirms decision in 1982 rape case


The state Court of Appeals on Tuesday decided to uphold a life sentence for an Oktibbeha County man convicted of rape in 1982.

Sanford Mason was tried and convicted on the rape charge and sentenced to life in prison without parole as a habitual offender.

In 2013, Mason filed an application with the Mississippi Supreme Court for permission to file for post-conviction relief in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court, with his application seeking DNA testing of certain evidence that was allegedly available.

The Supreme Court granted Mason’s application and he was appointed a public defender to represent him.

According to court documents, Mason’s attorney searched for a rape kit and other physical evidence attached to the case, but no evidence was found.

A hearing was then held in February 2015, where law enforcement officials from both the Starkville Police Department and Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department testified that they, along with Mason’s attorney, searched for the evidence but did not find anything. A former deputy circuit clerk then testified that “sometime after 1989, and probably closer to 2000,” there was flooding in the county courthouse, which resulted in raw sewage spilling from a bathroom in the tax assessor’s office into an exhibit room located underneath.

Court documents say roughly 25 percent of the items stored in the exhibit room were destroyed or unsalvageable.

The former deputy circuit clerk continued her testimony, saying based on her handwritten notes, she believes all the physical evidence from Mason’s case was destroyed by the flooding.

Circuit Judge Jim Kitchens then entered an order closing the case, saying there was no physical evidence remaining in the case that could be tested.

Mason filed a notice of appeal, saying the destruction of the rape kit and other evidence violates his right to due process.