Gag Order in Banks Case

Wednesday in court, Choctaw County Circuit Judge Thomas Baxter issued a gag order on all parties involved in the upcoming capital murder trial of Medell Banks, Jr., 30.

Judge Baxter said the gag order was needed to ensure Banks a fair trial. He cited an incident where stickers stating "Free Medell" were recently found on a number of Choctaw County residents' garbage bills. Here's a timeline of the case.

In May of 2001 Medell made what his attorneys call a "Best Interest Plea," of guilty to manslaughter in the death of his estranged wife's newborn baby. A body was never found.

Banks was sentenced to 15 years in prison. But after the sentencing, a doctor's evaluation challenged whether Bank's wife could actually have had a baby. He testified her tubes were tied before the "pregnancy."

Last December Medell Banks' attorneys appealed his sentence to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Just this month the court overturned the conviction and sent the case back to Choctaw County Circuit Court.

This opened the door for Banks to withdraw his original guilty plea. He did that Wednesday in court. He will now have to stand trial before a jury on a capital murder charge.

Meanwhile, supporters of Banks say they are in for the long haul.

"We are putting petitions up. We are writing letters," said Avery Curtis. "We're just hoping that the outcome is going to be great. We want to get Medell free."

Banks' sister-in-law, Dianne Tucker, also plead guilty to manslaughter in the case. As part of a deal with prosecutors she was released from jail this past summer.

Banks' estranged wife Victoria is now serving a 15-year prison sentence for manslaughter.

Medell Banks has been in jail since August of 1999 and remains behind bars. His tentative trial date is set for January 2003.


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