I read with great regret this morning the Jerry Mitchell story in the Clarion Ledger featuring Charles Evers, brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who is advocating a pardon for Bobby DeLaughter. For someone who is so upstanding in the community, his refrain of “nothing to see here . . . move along” is disappointing to say the least.
Evers was quoted as saying, “All he (DeLaughter) did was lie . . . What man can tell me he hasn’t lied? You’re telling me he should spend 18 months in prison for that?” In fact, Mr. DeLaughter lied about his own involvement in a scheme to improperly influence a proceeding over which he presided. And yes, Mr. Evers, I am telling you that he should spend 18 months in prison for that. As a judge, as a lawyer, and as a smart person, he knew better, which is precisely why he pleaded guilty to the crime.
As Mr. Evers is likely well aware, Mr. DeLaughter was indicted on five counts that included mail fraud and lying to the FBI. Two people (Dickie Scruggs and Joey Langston) pleaded guilty in that scheme and Ed Peters was given immunity in exchange for his cooperation in that case. Though many, including myself, believe Ed Peters should pay an additional price, I can’t substitute my judgment for the highly decorated prosecutors who received the Directors Award from Attorney General Eric Holder. They successfully prosecuted the largest judicial scandal in the history of the state of Mississippi that our state officials refused to engage. There was a trainload of evidence that orders and proceedings were manipulated in Wilson v. Scruggs and there appears to be ample evidence that other civil cases (Kirk v. Pope and Eaton v. Frisby) were manipulated by Peters and DeLaughter along the same lines of Wilson v. Scruggs.
It seems like Mr. Evers would have us believe that all DeLaughter did was lie to the FBI. In fact, he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and there is an enormous difference. If someone robs a bank and then steals the getaway car and pleads guilty to just the car theft, does that mean that, in fact, all they did was steal a car? Of course not. Mr. DeLaughter likely knew, by virtue of his own guilty plea, that he would have been convicted of much more than that with the testimony of Peters, Scruggs, Langston, Steve Patterson and Tim Balducci.
Corruption makes an awful racket when it dies. There are many in the public eye and in the press that are beholden to the interests of the fruits of corruption. Those dollars have paid for a lot of print, tv and radio ads as well as campaign donations, legal fees and consulting engagements over the years. Those that moan and wail the loudest will likely be shown to have the most to lose from the fall of the old system. While I understand the personal loyalty that Evers has to DeLaughter for rightfully pursuing the prosecution of the man that killed his brother, Evers of all people should understand the implications of the legal system being out of balance. For 30 years, his brother, Medgar, and his widow were likely victims of the very sort of improper influence and corruption that DeLaughter at the time seemed to right through his prosecution. He of all people should know how important the ability to have equal access in a judicial proceeding should be. Equal access to justice mostly affects “the least of these”, who Evers, until now, had a pretty consistent voice in advocating for. That doesn’t mean that Evers should abandon DeLaughter or the good that he did earlier in his career, but to attempt blunt the impact of what he admittedly did is irresponsible and unfortunate.
Having only briefly met Mr. Evers, I have long admired him for his courage and success as a businessman. Unfortunately, Mr. Evers went down a peg in my book (not Kings of Tort – onsale now) today. Hopefully, the press and the public can coalesce around the fact that serious wrong was done and that those who’ve done it are rightly paying a price for it.