Mississippi murder-for-hire lawsuit settled, parties tightly lipped on details

Published 7:24 am Sunday, January 6, 2019

GREENWOOD — A civil lawsuit filed by a Mississippi lawyer who was the target of what investigators called a failed murder-for-hire plot has been settled.

The Greenwood Commonwealth reported Friday that both sides wouldn’t say whether money changed hands in the settlement between the lawyer, Lee Abraham, and the oncologist accused of targeting him for death, Dr. Arnold Smith.

Abraham and Smith started a feud when the lawyer represented the doctor’s wife in their divorce.

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Authorities said Smith hired someone to kill Abraham, but the alleged hit man was himself shot dead in Abraham’s office and his supposed accomplice was wounded. Investigators from the state attorney general’s office were lying in wait, protecting the office.

Smith was found mentally incompetent to stand trial but has been release from the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield and is living with his wife in Jackson under certain conditions. Two men accused of helping Smith in the conspiracy remain jailed in Greenwood awaiting trial nearly seven years later.

In his civil suit, Abraham claimed he had suffered mental and emotional distress as a result of the shootout.

“It’s settled, and therefore we won’t be at trial,” Abraham said, but he wouldn’t reveal details of the confidential agreement. “I don’t think I can comment on it. In this case, I have to be a client and let my lawyer do the talking.”

Abraham’s lawyer, H. Scot Spragins, was unavailable for comment. Smith’s lawyer, William C. Bell, said only, “It’s over.”

The case was to be heard starting Monday before Judge Barry W. Ford Jr. in a Columbus courtroom. Ford was appointed by the Mississippi Supreme Court after all judges in Leflore County recused themselves. Ford will be asked to ratify the settlement.

Keira Byrd and Derrick Lacy entered Abraham’s law office on a Saturday night in April 2012. Byrd, who was carrying a gun, was shot to death. Lacy was wounded. Three agents of the attorney general’s office were largely unharmed.

Greenwood police later revealed they had found a videotape, recorded by Smith in his office, of Smith offering Byrd $20,000 to kill Abraham, payable upon delivery of a photo of Abraham with a bullet hole between his eyes. The tape led to the charges and Smith’s arrest.

Lacy and Cordarious Robinson, also of Greenwood, are in the Leflore County Jail. Charges allege Smith offered Robinson money to find someone who would kill Abraham.

A lawsuit Smith filed against Jim Hood was dismissed by state courts and a U.S. District Court judge in Jackson but argued before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in early December. In that suit, Smith claims Hood, Abraham and others denied Smith due process by conspiring to have him committed to Whitfield mental hospital in 2014.