iction in the infamous Medgar Evers Mississippi murder case — is himself now headed to prison.
It was DeLaughter’s dogged 1994 prosecution and the subsequent conviction of Ku Klux Klan member Byron De La Beckwith that helped trigger the reopening of dozens of civil rights cold cases.
DeLaughter became an instant hero of the civil rights movement. Alec Baldwin portrayed him in the 1996 movie, “Ghosts of Mississippi,” and his closing statement was once dubbed one of the greatest closing arguments in modern law.
“Is it ever too late to do the right thing?” DeLaughter told the jury of eight blacks and four whites. “For the sake of justice and the hope of us as a civilized society, I sincerely hope and pray that it’s not.”
DeLaughter’s attorney, Tom Durkin, refused CNN’s request to speak to the prosecutor-turned-judge ahead of his incarceration.
“Bobby DeLaughter remains a civil rights hero, and nothing is going to tarnish that,” Durkin said. “The penalty he’s paying is enormous, and I think it’s sad and unfortunate. But that’s simply the way it is.”
Over the last month, CNN spoke with more than a dozen lawyers in Mississippi about DeLaughter’s fall from grace. They paint a picture of an ambitious man with a brilliant legal mind who ran afoul of the law — of friends betraying friends and of big-time money corrupting the system. Some take delight in his downfall; others call it a tragedy that has stained the legal community.