James May, a Vicksburg, Mississippi native and USM senior, was found dead on May 1, 2002; a death that was initially ruled a suicide. At the behest of his family, the State Attorney General’s office agreed to review the case with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (the investigative arm of the Mississippi Highway Patrol) about four months later. Even though two prior Lamar County Grand Juries had previously voted not to indict Jennifer Wardle, with the attorney general’s office involved, Wardle was indicted for murder on Oct. 10, 2007.
In March of 2010, at trial, the state put on two experts who testified May could not have killed himself, and that he must have been murdered. After prompting by Mr. Colette, the state was also forced to call the doctor who performed the initial autopsy, and he testified he stood by his original conclusion that May had committed suicide. The state also called several of May’s friends who all testified that Wardle started a heated argument with May on the night of his death, concerning Wardle being pregnant with May’s child and May seeing another woman.
After the state rested, Wardle testified, denying the heated argument, telling the jury how she and May had gone to May’s trailer the night of his death, and May who was intoxicated, being depressed and despondent about his parent’s disapproval of his relationship with Wardle and other matters, went inside the trailer, locking Wardle out. Wardle then testified she heard a “pop,” ran to a neighbor’s house to have them call 911, then after being able to force the trailer door open, went inside, only to find May’s lifeless body laying in the bedroom. After deliberating less than two hours, the jury came back with their verdict of “Not Guilty.” This case is an example of why it is vital to have competent defense counsel with real-world trial experience to go to bat for you if you are facing criminal charges.