Shackled prisoner Cliff Kirkland asks judge to set him free or give him new sex crimes trial

Fredrick Cliff Kirkland stood trial again in July as a convicted sex offender, this time in a last-ditch appeal to get a judge to overturn his conviction for molesting three underage girls or grant him a new trial.
The much thinner former Biloxi city official, public relations guru and longtime journalist had his hands and legs tied as lawmakers escorted the 69-year-old, dressed in red and white jail jumpsuits, to the defense table in Biloxi Circuit Court.
Kirkland sat next to his defense attorney, Keith Pisarich, who argued that the testimonies and evidence at Kirkland's trial "were not legally sufficient" to support Kirkland's conviction on nine counts of touching a child for lustful reasons.
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Kirkland is serving a 35-year sentence for the crimes. As a convicted sex offender, Kirkland is not eligible for parole but has to do his time day in and day out.
From 2013 to 2017, Kirkland molested victims at various times on various occasions on a pull-out couch in his makeshift upstairs apartment at his Thomas Street home.
At the July 25 hearing, Pisarich argued that Judge Larry Bourgeois erred in refusing to prevent Harrison County prosecutors Alison Baker and George Huffman from designating three underage accusers as victims during the trial, and said the reference appeared to confirm the veracity of the testimony to the jury.
Cliff Kirkland smiles as his attorney shows him text messages that are evidence during Kirkland's trial for alleged molestation of underage girls Tuesday, May 17, 2022 in Harrison County Circuit Court in Biloxi.
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"In a way," Pisarich said, "that tells the jury that it's preordained" that the girls are legitimate victims, and thus "shattered the presumption of innocence" for Kirkland at trial.
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Cliff Kirkland's young victims speak out: "I can't escape the memories and flashbacks."
Pisarich also argued that Bourgeois erred in refusing to separate the cases involving the three underage accusers so that Kirkland could defend himself against each accuser's allegations separately in three separate trials. He also questioned the validity of the victim's testimony.
Pisarich said what the girls described to the jury in the May trial "seems straight out of a picture book," suggesting the girls had met well before the trial to decide what and how to tell the authorities and jury would describe what had happened to them.
A photograph of the Blue House, the residence of Cliff Kirkland, is shown on screen during Biloxi Police Department Detective Steven Kelly in the trial of Cliff Kirkland in Harrison County Circuit Court on Monday, May 16, 2022 Biloxi testifies.
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Pisarich noted that two victims stepped forward after the first girl confided in the crimes to her cheer coach. The cheer coach reported the allegations to Biloxi police, and the first victim told the other two victims she finally told someone with authority about what Kirkland had done to them.
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Prosecutors dismissed the defense's arguments for a new trial, pointing out that standard jury instructions often mention the word victim and that cases do not need to be segregated for a fair trial.
In this case, Baker said the crimes occurred during the same period at the same "blue house" on Thomas Street in Biloxi that was owned by Kirkland.
"Abdominal massage", chocolate cake: For years, Cliff Kirkland texted alleged victims
The judge listened to the arguments for over an hour before outright denying the motion to vacate the convictions or grant Kirkland a new trial.
As the deputies ushered Kirkland out of the courtroom, he looked over at the distraught family members in the front row and mouthed, "I love you," on the way out.
Dalliance Ross, Kirkland's daughter, reacts as her father is sentenced to 35 years in prison during a sex abuse trial in Harrison County Court on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.
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The defense asked the judge to allow Kirkland to stay in the Harrison County Jail for at least another month before he is transferred to state prison. The judge granted this request.
His lawyer is appealing the conviction to a higher court.
Cliff Kirkland is being led away by the Harrison County Sheriff's Department after he was found guilty on all counts by the jury during a sex abuse trial against Kirkland in Harrison County Circuit Court in Biloxi on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 . Kirkland was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
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Judge Larry Bourgeois awards Cliff Kirkland his sentence after the jury found him guilty of sexual assault during Kirkland's trial on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 in Harrison County Court in Biloxi.
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