There was a sea of red in the Union County Courthouse on Friday. The family of Dominique Clayton had gathered in the courtroom to see justice done in her name.
“Justice for Dominique,” some of the shirts read. Others: “Long Live Lucy” — Dominique’s nickname.
Former Oxford police officer Matthew Kinne looked worn out in his crumpled orange jumpsuit. He was escorted into the courtroom by his attorney, Tony Farese. It would be less than an hour before the judge would hand down his sentence: Life in prison without parole.
Farese would tell the media after the hearing that Kinne’s was a crime of passion. That he was trying to get back to his normal life and Clayton was holding their affair over his head, threatening to tell his family if he didn’t give her money and buy her things, and finally he snapped.
The prosecution painted a different story. If the trial had gone on, said Assistant District Attorney Mickey Mallette, they would have been able to prove that Kinne had driven Clayton home from the Oxford Square in the rain, taken his phone out to Oxford Police Department’s horse barn and left it there, and come back to her house and shot her in the head as she slept. Clayton’s 8-year-old son, one of three children, was the one who found his mother dead.
Kinne was the one who provided much of that information in his confession, Farese said.
Kinne had been a law enforcement officer for over 13 years, serving at Olive Branch before coming to Oxford. He had a good reputation and a good record, Farese said.
“It had gotten to the point where he couldn’t get out… Quite candidly I think he broke on the night of May 18th when he was standing over her and he stated in the recorded statement that he wanted his life back,” he said.
“He was a cold blooded killer,” said Carlos Moore, attorney for the Clayton family. “This man… broke in her home, found her sleeping… went back with his service weapon and killed this lady in cold blood.”
Prosecutors said from the beginning, it was the determination of Oxford Police Chief Jeff McCutchen to do the right thing — if an investigation showed his officer had done something illegal, he would face the same punishment as any criminal. It was the dedication of MBI agent Cory Burrow to see the case all the way through in spite of what can be kindly described as pushback from some fellow law enforcement officers. It was the fact that most people don’t realize how thin the blue line can actually be, and those who violate the call to serve and protect are not allowed to remain a part of it.
Clayton’s family took up several solid, silent rows during the proceedings. Speaking to the media after courtroom had cleared out on to the steps outside the courthouse, her cousin Reggie Clayton said, “This isn’t even half our family.”
“I can’t contemplate the depth of their injury and trauma that they’ve had to endure. Not only that, but because this was somebody who was wearing a badge and who was supposed to be trusted,” said District Attorney Ben Creekmore.
A few people dotted the other side of the courthouse, presumably there to support Kinne. Police officers from various agencies stood watch along the walls and in the doors.
Moore said the family was hoping for the death penalty, but given the circumstances, they beleved that life without parole was an adequate sentence.
“We are in Mississippi,” Moore said. “Despite the evidence there could have been one person in Lafayette County that could have held out and it could have been a hung jury.”
Or, he pointed out, a jury could have sentenced Kinne to death.
“Now we can begin to heal,” said Reggie Clayton.