SENATOBIA, MS (abc24.com) - Three Mississippi teens jailed for three days, forced to strip naked and searched, all for walking through a neighbor's yard in Senatobia.
The 15 year olds accused of trespassing have been cleared of all charges, but said the experience is something they'll never forget. Neither will their parents.
The teenagers had no previous trouble with the law, but they were taken into custody in July, 2011 after a neighbor called police after they walked through her yard.
Leigh Ann Darby is the youth court judge in Tate County. Lawyers said directly after the teens' arrest, she ordered the three drug tested and had them taken to a juvenile detention center two hours away in Alcorn County.
They weren't given a hearing and were forced to strip then squat and cough for guards. All three were tried and cleared of the charges in the middle of October 2011. Lawyers said something is wrong with the way Mississippi handles child cases.
They accuse Darby of abusing her power. She was suspended for 60 days but will return to work next week, something the teens, their families and attorneys don't want to see.
"We have real concerns about the fact that Ms. Darby is going to be returned to the bench on November 1st," attorney Cliff Johnson told abc24.com. "We also think it's a problem that the Alcorn Detention Center has a policy of strip searching every child regardless of their age and charges against them. We want people to know what's happening and ask their political leaders hard questions about the juvenile justice system and oversight of the system. We think changes need to be made."
The attorney told abc24.com these cases are often kept private because they involve underage kids. The three are sharing their story because they worry others may have gone through the same thing.
No reason was given for Judge Darby's suspension. She rules over the Tate County youth and drug courts. It's not an elected position. On October 3, 2011, the board of supervisors voted to remove her from office. So far no action has been taken.