US Supreme Court won’t hear lawsuit tied to contentious 2014 Senate race in Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court said Tuesday that it will not consider a dispute over a lawsuit filed by the family of a Mississippi lawyer who took his own life after he was arrested and accused of providing information to people who snuck into a nursing home and photographed the ailing wife of a U.S. senator during a contentious election.

Rose Cochran’s image appeared briefly online during the 2014 Republican primary for U.S. Senate, in a video that accused Sen. Thad Cochran of having an affair while his wife was bedridden with dementia — an accusation that Cochran denied. Cochran died in 2019.

The primary exacerbated rifts between establishment Republicans who supported Cochran and tea party activists, including lawyer Mark Mayfield, who backed Cochran’s Republican primary challenger, state lawmaker Chris McDaniel.

In 2017, Mayfield’s survivors sued Madison Mayor Hawkins-Butler and others, saying the defendants were part of a network of Cochran supporters who pushed Mayfield to suicide in June 2014. Mayfield died by gunfire, and police said he left a suicide note, days after Cochran defeated McDaniel in a primary runoff and before the felony charge against Mayfield could be prosecuted.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves dismissed the lawsuit in 2021, writing that Mayfield’s relatives did not prove the city of Madison improperly retaliated against Mayfield for constitutionally protected speech or political activity.

A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Reeves’ ruling in July. In a split decision in August, the full appeals court said it would not reconsider the Mayfield family’s appeal.

Dorsey Carson, the attorney for Mayfield’s wife and sons, said in a statement Tuesday that the family showed “persistence, courage and diligence” in exposing government abuse. Carson said the decision by Madison officials and officers to arrest Mayfield “was wholly political.”

“Although the Mayfield family will not have the opportunity to tell his story to a jury, Mark would be proud that his family fought the good fight and kept the faith to the end,” Carson said.

Mayfield’s mother lived in the same nursing home as Rose Cochran in the Jackson suburb of Madison. Mayfield was charged with conspiracy to exploit a vulnerable adult, after Madison authorities accused him of giving information to other McDaniel supporters who entered the facility without permission and photographed Rose Cochran. McDaniel condemned the operation and said it was not authorized by his campaign.

Two other people who supported McDaniel in 2014, John Mary and Clayton Kelly, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

Cochran’s campaign said in 2014 that he wasn’t involved in an improper relationship. He was reelected that November, and Rose Cochran died the following month. The senator married a longtime aide in May 2015.

Cochran served six years in the House before winning a Senate seat in 1978, and he rose to the chairmanship of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. He retired in frail health in 2018, and he was 81 when he died in 2019.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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