Dazed and Confused

By Christopher Zoukis

The Mississippi Supreme Court decided not to decide whether Delay could be tried again or not until after he was tried.  The decision was a stroke of genius.  For if Delay was acquitted, there was nothing to decide.  If he was convicted, he could appeal.  If Delay appealed, the court would merely say a murder case that has been dismissed could be retried in good faith, because there was no statute of limitations on murder.   Image courtesy usatoday30.usatoday.com

Delay spent a lot of time shopping for a lawyer.  In the end, he decided on Buddy Coxwell and Jim Kitchens as his defense team.  The prosecutors were Bobby Delaughter and Ed Peters.

The prosecution introduced new evidence, which was that Delay had boasted of killing Medgar Evers to many people over the course of the last three decades.  Klansman Delmar Dennis took the stand and told the jury how Delay had bragged about killing Evers thirty years before.  They also introduced Delay’s admission to the nurse’s aide in prison, that he had killed Evers.  And they linked Delay to the letter published in “The Hoskins Report.”

Déjà vu.  The letter was back. 

The background page of the Anti-Defamation League’s website states that “Hoskins’s writings drew public attention in October 1991, when prosecutors in Mississippi linked white supremacist Byron de la Beckwith to the Phineas Priesthood.”

In other words, for the first time, the general public became aware of the existence of a cluster of violent religious bigots, who killed “for God’s sake.”  

The murder weapon – the 1917 Enfield – was still available as evidence.  For Delay – at the conclusion of the second trial in 1964 – had simply picked it up and walked away with it.  He had given the rifle to Russell Moore, who was a friend and the presiding judge at the 1964 mistrials, as a “souvenir.”  Everyone who knew Moore knew he had the rifle.  It was in the closet of his house.  One of the prosecutors, Bobby Delaughter, just went over to Moore’s house and got it.

As the trial unfolded, Delay sat in the courtroom wearing a Confederate flag on his lapel.  He still didn’t believe he would ever be convicted.  However, this time there was no all-male, all white jury.  This time the jury was composed of 8 African-Americans and 4 white people.  And because of the pre-trial publicity, the jurors were not from Jackson, Mississippi.  They were from Panola County and arrived on a specially chartered bus. 

In his book – The Ghosts of Medgar Evers, author Willie Morris described the atmosphere of the trial as full of hate.  Delay’s supporters sat in the courtroom, glaring.  They were “Klansmen, hate-mail publishers, and homegrown Mississippi neo-Nazis.”  Delay’s second and current wife was there too.  Thelma de la Beckwith.  She wore a blond wig and “told reporters it was Lee Harvey Oswald who really shot Evers.”

On February 5, 1994, the jury returned a verdict of guilty.  When the verdict was announced, Delay looked as if dazed and confused.  This was more than he had ever bargained for.