CL – DeLaughter reports Monday – Law professor calls former judge’s fall tragic

“It’s tragic for him, tragic for his family and tragic for our state,” said Matt Steffey, professor at Mississippi College School of Law.

As an assistant district attorney, DeLaughter overcame improbable odds in pursuing a case against Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers, field secretary for the Mississippi NAACP.

In 1994, the world watched as DeLaughter, together with then-District Attorney Ed Peters, successfully prosecuted Beckwith for murder. Beckwith, sentenced to life in prison, died in 2001.

On July 30, DeLaughter stepped down as a Hinds County circuit judge and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a corruption investigation involving multimillionaire and former lawyer Dickie Scruggs.

Charles Evers, who took over his brother’s position after the 1963 assassination, said the one who should have been indicted in the scandal was Peters.

“He was the one who got the money,” Evers said. “They’re sending the wrong man to jail.”

Alan Lange, co-author of a new book on the case, Kings of Tort, said DeLaughter as a judge “knew better, and he admitted to wrongdoing.”

When DeLaughter pleaded guilty, “he waived his appeal and answered pretty extensive questioning, admitting his crime,” Lange said. “It doesn’t mean others have gotten what they deserve, but it means he’s gotten what he deserves.”

Clarion-Ledger
1/3/10