I’ve long felt that the true events in the Paul Minor case have been given a pass in the Mississippi media based on the Minors’ considerable influence and friendship among the media elite here. Digging around the Paul Minor file the other day to see if there was anything new, there was an interesting tidbit. Judge John Whitfield is trying to get out of jail on bond pending resentencing. The US Attorney filed a response to their petition which had that interesting data.
As background, the Archie Marks vs. Diamond Offshore case was one of the key cases in the Paul Minor judicial bribery trial. One of the key arguments during the criminal defense the Minor team made to the media was (and I’m paraphrasing), “Sure, it looks fishy, but those cases ultimately came to the right decision . . . so, no harm, no foul.” Judge Whitfield in the Marks case was the only finder of fact as it was a bench trial and found for Marks in the amount of $3.7 million (see Chapter 4 in Kings of Tort). That was later reduced to under $2 million by the Supreme Court on appeal, but the case was not retried. Remember that Whitfield was into Minor for loans totalling about $140K at the time (undisclosed) and that they used a New Orleans lawyer as a strawman to try and hide Minor’s fingerprints on the transaction. Dickie Scruggs was originally approached by Minor, according to government documents, about being the strawman for Whitfield like he ultimately was for Teel, but he said “no” to Minor on this particular case.
Of course, after Minor and Whitfield were convicted that case was retried for Marks at the trial level without, let’s say, the inconvenience of an improperly influenced judge. Any guess at what the verdict was during a fair trial? Try $383,000. That’s right . . . about 10% of the value that Whitfield found at trial. I don’t think I’ll be going out on a limb when I say that I doubt you’ll read this anywhere in the traditional Mississippi media.
It appears that Archie Marks was legitimately injured and legitimately deserved compensation for those injuries. I doubt anyone has a real problem with that. However, with Minor’s thumb on the scales to the tune of $3 million, that makes an enormous difference. There are lots of honest trial lawyers scratching out a living that continue to live under the considerable shadow these characters cast through their actions. Hopefully, the legal community will continue to root out this sort of corruption, recognize the warning signs, and make sure it never happens again.
Say this for Minor . . . it appears he got lots of bang for his buck.