Monday, November 19, 2007

Mississippi Churning, Part XXIV

Let's return to the issue of the myriad conflicts of interest U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton had in the Paul Minor case.

The defense was well aware of Lampton's conflicts and filed a motion to dismiss the charges, saying Minor and others were being selectively prosecuted. Of particular emphasis was the fact that attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, brother-in-law of Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) had made financial contributions to judges and was not indicted.

"When the Republican U.S. attorney looks at Republican supporter Mr. Scruggs' actions he sees them in a way that avoids any criminal overtone," said Minor attorney Abbe Lowell. "When the same U.S. attorney looks at Democrat Paul Minor's actions, he sees racketeering."

And Lowell raised other key points. "Obtaining multi-million dollar results for clients in two separate cases in which negligence and other wrongdoing were alleged by Mr. Minor against Mr. Lampton's family interest is reason all by itself to require Mr. Lampton to stay out of any decision concerning Mr. Minor," Lowell said. "But there he stood announcing how his family's nemesis was a federal felon."

How did Judge Henry Wingate handle the motion to dismiss? In a most curious way. According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, he sat on it--for 15 months. "Judges generally rule quickly on a motion to dismiss because that motion could put an end to the case, legal experts say," reporter Jerry Mitchell wrote.

Evidently Wingate was not interested in seeing a weak case come to an end. When he finally ruled on the motion to dismiss, he denied it and said there was no political bias on the part of the prosecution.

Perhaps the biggest reason for concerns about Lampton's motivations was unknown at the time of Wingate's ruling. But it would come to light on a national stage.

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