Judge DeLaughter has been arraigned, and we’re about to start Scruggs II, only now one principal actor has changed sides.
Anyone coming to this story now is literally coming in medias res– in a very complex way, in the middle of an arguably tragic tale. It’s complicated because we are in the middle of two distinct narratives.
One is the narrative of the criminal cases for judicial bribery or improper influence, and the other is the narrative of the underlying cases in which the improper influence occurred. (Note that, accepting the guilty pleas of Joey Langston and Dickie Scruggs, and the testimony of Tim Balducci, I’m saying “occurred” as to both cases).
I don’t want to (re)introduce all of the players at this point, because I want to keep the length of this post in reasonable limits. For now, I’ll talk about Judge Bobby DeLaughter, who lives near Raymond in Hinds County, Mississippi, and is one of the Circuit Court judges there. Judge DeLaughter went to work for a firm that included Bill Kirksey after law school (he was graduated from law school in 1977), and in the 1980s went to work as an assistant district attorney for Ed Peters, the District Attorney for Hinds County. In 1994, he had his most famous prosecution, convicting Byron Beckwith of the 1963 murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. He used that as a platform to run (unsuccessfully) for judge, but then was appointed county court judge by Republican Governor Kirk Fordice in 1999. In 2002, Democratic Governor Ronnie Musgrove appointed him circuit court judge on the retirement of Judge Breland Hilburn. DeLaughter gained national attention for the Evers proseuction, and the public view of him was in a large sense defined by the versions of that case told in popular books and a movie about it.