The evidence left little doubt that the man who shot and killed Carl White Jr. was the same man who, four days earlier, shot another man and raped that man’s wife. Cedric Willis was arrested for those crimes. When the results of DNA tests finally arrived, however, they proved that Willis wasn’t the rapist. The prosecution dismissed the rape charge but inexplicably proceeded with the homicide prosecution. Even worse, Assistant District Attorney Bobby DeLaughter and his boss, District Attorney Ed Peters, convinced a newly-appointed judge that the jury shouldn’t hear evidence that the rapist and the murderer were the same person, and that White wasn’t the rapist.
Willis’ lawyer filed a motion for a new trial but it languished without a ruling for 12 years. Willis spent those years in the brutal Mississippi prison at Parchman, serving nearly half his time in solitary confinement. With the help of the Innocence Project, his request for a new trial was finally heard and granted. A different judge later ruled that the only evidence against Willis, an eyewitness who identified Willis in court at his first trial, was tainted and couldn’t be used against him. The homicide charge was finally dropped in 2006. [more …]
And what of Bobby DeLaughter, the prosecutor who didn’t think the jury should hear evidence of Willis’ innocence? He went on to become a Hinds County Circuit Court Judge, and a dirty one at that. DeLaughter is scheduled to enter a guilty plea today to a federal charge of lying to the FBI agents who were investigating his corrupt judicial conduct. This might be seen as karma in action, except that DeLaughter probably won’t serve 12 years, and he certainly won’t serve it under the nightmarish conditions that Willis had to endure.