Attorneys for Fairhope resident Bruce Keishawn Salter, 26, say Baldwin County District Attorney Hallie Dixon violated their client’s constitutional rights in connection to his alleged involvement with the Jan. 14, 2013, murder of another Fairhope man, Donald Howard. Last month, Salter’s attorneys filed a federal complaint against Dixon seeking injunctive relief against capital murder charges their client faces as a result of information he provided investigators.
The complaint states Dixon agreed to grant immunity to Salter in exchange for truthful information about events leading to Howard’s death. Further, the complaint says the agreement was breached on June 24, 2013, when Salter was arrested and charged with capital murder. Dixon secured a six-count indictment against Salter and could seek the death penalty if the case goes to court later this year.
Dixon has said she does not believe all of the information provided by Salter was truthful. Originally, Dixon was given until Aug. 20 to file an answer to the complaint, but on Aug. 17, an order was signed allowing Dixon an extension until Sept. 1 to respond.
Howard died Jan. 14, 2013, after being shot multiple times and robbed of money, a cell phone, a pocket knife and a red bandana. According to the complaint, Salter contacted Dixon through his attorney, Chase Dearman, on Jan. 17, 2013, with information about the homicide. That day, Salter, Dearman and attorney David Kennedy met with Dixon and investigators from the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office. The complaint also says authorities had no leads on suspects before Salter’s contact.
Howard’s remains were discovered Jan. 23 in a Prichard cemetery.
During the meeting, Salter allegedly agreed to share his knowledge of the homicide and Dixon agreed to grant him immunity from prosecution in exchange for any truthful information he shared with investigators. Salter also provided his cell phone to the investigators and submitted to follow-up interviews on the matter.
According to the complaint, Salter implicated and detailed the whereabouts of Charles Immanuel Jenkins, who was later arrested and charged with capital murder in connection to the homicide. Jenkins, 24, of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, could face a jury on the capital murder charge in October.
Salter is currently being held without bail in the Baldwin County Corrections Center. According to online jail records, Salter was booked June 25, 2013. Investigators say Salter drove Jenkins to the scene of the homicide in the 7700 block of Parker Road in Montrose. Dixon has claimed Salter was not entirely truthful about his involvement in the homicide.
Mountain Brook-based defense attorney William “Chip” Bradford said everything investigators know about the crime they learned because Salter waived his Fifth Amendment right, thinking he would be granted immunity.
“Everything they learned about the case, they learned from our client,” Bradford said. “The system relies on trust, and that trust was broken in this case.”
Bradford said in his 23 years of practice he has never seen a case where attorneys had to file a civil suit asking a federal court to intervene in a murder trial in a state court.
“It is an unusual thing,” Bradford said. “I have not seen this type of lawsuit filed before because normally, when the promise of immunity is given, cases like this plea out. That’s what usually happens, based on the set rules of the game.”
Bradford said prosecutors and attorneys rely on trust to make sure the justice system works. The complaint reads “but for Salter’s immunized statements, the state of Alabama would not have sufficient evidence to prosecute Salter or any other person for Howard’s death. The state would not have benefited from Salter’s willing assistance if Salter had known that he would later be charged with a crime.”
“The system works because I can go to a district attorney or a prosecutor and reach an agreement and have confidence they will do what they say they will do, and they have confidence I will do the same,” he said. “That’s not what happened here.”
In May, Baldwin County Judge Joseph Norton denied a similar complaint filed by Salter’s attorneys.
Two other Baldwin County men have been charged in the homicide. Brandon C. Jackson, 25, was charged with hindering prosecution, while Jamon Lawrence, 23, was charged with first-degree hindering prosecution. The Baldwin County District Attorney’s office did not respond to requests for comment.