A close-up look from the courtroom

Friday, when I came into the third-floor courtroom, Dickie was seated on the second row, his wife on his left, his lawyer on his right, then co-defendant Sidney Backstrom next to the lawyer.

It didn’t look right. Mrs. Scruggs was not a usual sight in the courthouse with her husband, and Backstrom’s eyes were very red, like he had been crying.

While the government prosecutors were at their usual spot, no defense attorneys were in their usual chairs along the backside of a very long series of tables.

Zach Scruggs’ attorneys from Missouri were seated just inside the wooden retaining fence between the public and the judge, but Zach wasn’t with them, and the hearing Judge Neal Biggers was supposed to hold was on a motion to throw out Zach’s indictment.

The deputy clerk entered the courtroom from the rear door and mouthed to prosecutors, “He’s ready,” which I took to mean Judge Neal Biggers Jr. Then the bailiff appeared through the same door and motioned to the defense team to come forward.

Obviously, they were about to meet with Biggers in his chambers. If you watch enough TV, you know that means something big. I suspected but couldn’t be sure.

Five to seven minutes elapsed, and the prosecutors, attorneys and clients returned.

Then Biggers fairly vaulted up the steps to his bench. He spoke directly, saying that before he would consider the pretrial motions, he had a couple of other matters to deal with – two plea agreements.

I don’t think I heard a collective gasp from the audience, but it might have been just me.

Dickie Scruggs, arguably the most famous trial lawyer in America, came forward with his California attorney John Keker. Scruggs’ jaw was firm and he had a “neutral positive” look on his face.

“I understand you wish to change your plea to guilty,” Biggers said to him.

“Yes, I do,” Scruggs answered.

Mrs. Scruggs began to weep quietly.

I thought to myself: If Zach Scruggs were here, he might safely say this scene is the worst of his entire life, even compared to his own legal dilemma.

It would be the worst because here stands the man, who surely has been his son’s idol, his mentor, his hero – all shattered.

NE MS Daily Journal
3/16/8