The Scruggs trial cometh . . . or does it?
What could possibly be next?
by Alan Lange
Though it is certainly tempting to use this valuable piece of online real estate to further chronicle the downward spiral of sanity that is the Jim Hood Attorney General administration, more imporant matters have come to the fore.

We are decidedly in pre-game in the trial of Dickie Scruggs' life, or at least the pre-trial negotiation for it.

From the Government's release of three wiretaps on Tuesday, it certainly seems that they have a very strong hand against Dickie Scruggs, Zach Scruggs and Sid Backstrom. . From my read of those transcripts, it is pretty apparent that there was a tacit recognition of Balducci's plan and complicity with it. The money trail is going to be hard to deny with a very good witness in Balducci and a pretty tight paper trail. A few key excerpts can be found in our discussion highlighting the Government's responses and release of wire transcripts. Candidly, they're pretty damning for all three of them, but you can read for yourself.

There were several key motions in front of Judge Biggers. The defense motions to dismiss based on "outrageous government conduct" and motion to change venue were denied. An interesting moment was quoted by NMC at FOLO while discussing the motion to change venue.

He (Keker) started quoting Legalnewsline. He said people are interested in this because it is a fall from grace, and a fall from grace of someone who lives in Mississippi.


I think I remember saying that to Legal Newsline. Quoth I from LNL . . .

"There's an old saying that Mississippi is a club, not a state," Lange said. "Mississippi is so small that just about everyone in the state has had some personal interaction with at least one of the players in this tragedy, so it's compelling on an individual level.

"It also involves a fall from grace of people who were well-known and larger than life. Dickie Scruggs, Jim Hood, Joey Langston, (former Attorney General) Mike Moore and Steve Patterson are all househould names in Mississippi and all are intimately involved in this story."


But I digress.

The motions to include "prior acts" and the motion to exclude the wiretaps will be ruled on Tuesday. If both of those are denied, Scruggs has a major problem on his hands.

Obviously, the most salacious bit of news in the hearings in front of Judge Biggers has been the fact that Keker would call Senators Lott & Cochran as witnesses, if the "prior acts" motion is not denied. This is a scorched earth tactic. No federal judge wants a sitting and a former US Senator testifying in their courtroom for anything. No one relishes the kind of national attention that would attract or the inevitable circus atmosphere that would ensue. This may be more apply more pressure on everyone to want to make a deal.

Also, one key point on potential Trent Lott testimony will be "what did he know?" The fact that Trent Lott may have called DeLaughter at Scruggs request isn't a problem for Lott unless Lott had the context that Scruggs had a key piece of litigation in front of DeLaughter and that his phone call would help in that regard. If Lott called knowing that it will help Dickie specifically in that context, Lott may well have a problem. Likewise, if evidence comes forward that Lott called Judge Acker or anyone in Alabama to help Scruggs out of his contempt charges, Lott will have a problem and will deserve whatever would be coming to him. Otherwise, Lott may well be just a unwitting bit player in this saga.

I think at this point, if the wiretaps hold, Scruggs & Company will have no option but to plea for whatever the Government is offering. If they roll the dice in trial and lose a jury trial with 75 years worth of jail time potentially hanging over their heads, they will be appealing from a jail cell, just like their friend Paul Minor. No matter how much money you have, that is not a good feeling.

If Keker can make the Government and Judge Biggers feel like his client and his cohorts would have legitimate grounds for appeal, it could serve to sweeten the pot for a deal.

The Government is fighting fire with fire though. Yesterday, they filed a motion to have a sequestered and/or anonymous jury. That is a bad deal for Scruggs & Keker. When you go out to hire the best lawyer money can buy, jury consultants have a much more difficult time if they don't have any information on the jurors that get seated.

Early on, I thought this would go to a trial, no questions asked. Then I saw the Government's transcripts. It seems Balducci has delivered the goods big time both as a witness and as an informant, and I am now more inclined to think this thing sees plea agreements. If it does go to a trial, it will be like the OJ Simpson trial. Everyone will know what actually happened, but the intrigue will come from watching the process to see if indeed justice gets served or if some rich guys with all the money in the world can beat the system.

We'll soon see.

Posted February 22, 2008 - 1:49 pm

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