Maintaining Public Faith | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Maintaining Public Faith

To quote a passive-laden Clarion-Ledger story: "Subpoenas have been issued" for suspended Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter and former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters, to see if the ex-DA had some influence over DeLaughter in a trade-secrets civil suit.

From January 2006 to January 2007, DeLaughter adopted many filings that favored the defendants. But then Peters' name came up as an unofficial counsel for the plaintiffs in January 2007 e-mails, and defendants say DeLaughter began ruling against the defense throughout 2007.

Not every possible connection is so subtle, though. Peters' link to Hinds County Circuit court made the big news in 2007, when Richard Scruggs' attorney Joey Langston signed a guilty plea admitting he had approached Peters with money for DeLaughter and a promise for consideration on a federal bench if DeLaughter arranged a ruling favorable to Scruggs in a 2006 suit.

On June 11, 2005, Jackson Police Officer Jeffrey Middleton ran a red light on Highway 18—with neither lights nor siren on—and killed Desmonde Harris. Former Hinds County DA Faye Peterson had a good case filled with witnesses and personal logs incriminating Middleton. Middleton pled guilty. But then DeLaughter allowed Middleton's case to be non-adjudicated and placed him on two years probation. Peters was one of Middleton's lawyers.

The ramifications of the Langston plea, fettered to a myriad of little suspicions, should be sending shock waves throughout Hinds County, even as allegations are yet to be proved. The public now needs its faith in the local court system re-affirmed, and the way to do that is to take a long, painful, wearying look at as many cases as possible featuring the influence of both Peters and DeLaughter.

Suspect cases go way back because Peters has been working in the state for a long time, all the way back to former Police Chief Jimmy Wilson's pleas for Peters to prosecute city employees accused of abusing inmates at the county's youth detention center, which was then directed by Peters' friend, Frank Bluntson.

The big problem with compromised favors is that your gift may keep on giving. How many more favors must be exchanged to keep that first favor under wraps? This is one way in which corruption can devour a system.

Getting your dog to un-devour a valued piece of property is nasty business. Convincing a potentially corrupt justice system to spit forth its damage will be equally nauseating, but nonetheless necessary if the public' faith in a fair and unbiased system is to be maintained.


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