Scruggs Nation, March 24: ten unanswered questions

There are more than 10, of course, way more.  But these 10 will do for a starter.

1.  How likely do you think it was that a lawyer of the reputation of John Keker and a defendant of the wealth and notoriety of Dickie Scruggs failed to test their case before mock juries?  I would say it is very unlikely, and my guess is they used more than one. I would also take an educated guess that, if they did, the answers from the mock jury were unfavorable.

2.  Is the talk of the 50 sealed indictments just wishful thinking on the part of Mississippians, some deus ex machina that will come in and settle the plot?   And if they are real, what are the feds waiting for? One reason I’ve been skeptical of this is hardly anything is really a secret about the Scruggs case — I hear a lot more than I pass on, much of it credible or reliable — but I’ve not heard any of the names supposedly on this list.

3.  It seems evident that the government will seek an indictment against Scruggs for his alleged role in the Wilson case.  Why did they wait until the conclusion of the Lackey bribery case rather than going after a superseding indictment and rolling all the charges into one?   

4.  Where will Dickie Scruggs do his prison sentence?

5.  What exactly does the phrase mean that Balducci used with Judge Lackey, "lay the corn on the ground"?  

6.  Will Jim Hood continue to hand out multi-million dollar cases like a Pez dispenser? (Scroll down to the middle of the post).

7.  Will we ever find out what exactly P.L. Blake did for those millions?

8.  Returning to the issue of the Wilson case, was the timing of Joey Langston’s guilty plea anything other than a justification to use the evidence as prior bad act evidence against Scruggs?  Were there plans to roll up the Wilson case, but then these plans were scrapped?

9.  When and if all the information on the Wilson case comes out, I’m sure going to be curious to see the testimony about Trent Lott’s role in the call to Judge DeLaughter, aren’t you?  I mean, given that he had known Bobs Wilson for a long time, and given that Dickie Scruggs was his brother-in-law, is it possible that he could have been unaware that Judge DeLaughter had before him a case involving Wilson and Scruggs?  If he did know, how is that OK?  If he didn’t know, how is that OK?

10.  In thinking about this, it seems to me that when Mike Moore was brought on the Zach Scruggs’ defense team, this indicated a fighting strategy, a trial strategy.  If this is so, what happened to change this strategy and make Zach willing to take a plea agreement just a short time later?  

UPDATE: What do you think of this letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal?  It was written by an attorney and takes John Keker to task for his statements about how weak and even fraudulent the case was against Dickie Scruggs, including right up to the time Scruggs pleaded guilty to these fraudulent charges.  An excerpt:

It was really nauseating, however, to read the absurd assertion by John Keker, his lawyer, that Mr. Scruggs was innocent and that the "prosecutors have concocted a ‘manufactured crime’ in which his client had no part". . . . So, according to Mr. Keker, the prosecutors could freely be accused of trying to frame an innocent man. . . .

One assumed that when Mr. Keker made factual assertions he was accurately reporting what Mr. Scruggs had told him, since he presumably knew Mr. Scruggs’s side of the story through lengthy interviews under the protection of the attorney-client privilege.

Then we learned, a few hours later, that Mr. Scruggs was guilty all along. Either Mr. Keker knew this or he was ignorant. . . .

Every day these lawyers appear on television and in the papers repeating the ridiculous alibis of their clients, not as their clients’ legal positions but as facts, only to be ultimately made foolish by a plea or a trial.

SECOND UPDATE: The phrasing in this New York Times story on the Zach Scruggs plea was interesting, I think, and an indication of the zeitgeist.  The lede called Dickie Scruggs "a recently disgraced trial lawyer." (For those who wonder why I spell "lede" this way, it’s the way journalists write it so it’s not confused with the word "lead," as in lead paint).  My first thought was no, he disgraced himself quite a long time ago, but then I thought again, they’re right. Although an act that results in disgracing might have occurred some time back, the disgracing itself connotes a public consensus and does not occur until the public knows the disgraceful facts.  Think about that phrase for a minute.  If last October anyone had told you that you would see that sentence in the Times or anywhere else in March, would you have thought they were nuts? I would have.




Filed under Industry Developments

22 Responses to Scruggs Nation, March 24: ten unanswered questions

  1. mdc

    RE: “…lay the corn on the ground…” a hunting metaphor, generally for birds meaning laying out bait to draw in prey.

  2. Main Street

    As a Mississippi Farm Girl my brothers and I discussed what corn on the ground might mean. Our Theory was a committment to finish, because no matter what was happening if a farmer has his corn on the ground if not cribbed soon after all the finance and labor to get it to the crib or bin would be lost. Corn when wet only from the dew will swell then sour and be ruined.

  3. M.Williams


  4. I’m so tired of reading and hearing Dickie Scruggs described as a “trial lawyer.” He didn’t try cases, even the ones he didn’t fix. Keker is a trial lawyer, Scruggs was a mass tort case manager.

  5. Main Street

    Scruggs was a mass tort case manager, and Mike Moore did what? Lots of unanswered questions. Would love to know Clay if your Mothers name is Patsy, If so small world.

  6. dixie68

    If you were trying to lure a pig into a trap to be converted to ham and bacon, then you would drop corn on the ground leading to the trap. By the time the pig had his nose to the ground eating the grains of corn up to the trap, it was too late. The trap had sprung.

  7. nmc

    Great questions. I’ve posted my take on them (While perhaps there are a couple or three prosecutors that could come close to acing this test, I’m not sure anyone has a full set of answers) on the folo website.

  8. Word Dawg

    All ten are good questions. I can only help with a couple: “Corn on the ground” is baiting to attract game in Mississippi. In my humble opinion, Mike Moore’s appearance on the scene was to signal to prosecutors that Moore would be seated at counsel table during trial and could possibly be influential in causing a local jury to hesitate before sending Zach Scruggs to jail.

  9. Nomiss

    5. When I initially read Balducci’s transcript, I understood the “put the corn on the ground” to be the same as “Let’s put the cards on the table.” In other words, you tell me what you want and I’ll tell you what I want, and we’ll both know where we’re coming from and where we’re going. Literally, though, the meaning does refer to hunting or baiting.
    7. P.L. told us in the Luckey testimony what he did for those millions. He clipped newspaper articles about the tobacco litigation and talked to people in the know. The huge amount was to cover his medical care and surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome he got from using the scissors so much while clipping the articles.
    10. I still think Mike Moore wanted Zach to go to trial, and he wanted to be part of the case to get publicity for himself.
    If the case had gone to trial, I’ll bet ole Mike would have run to the microphones everyday as soon as the court recessed.

  10. Amazed

    I agree with NOMISS that in the context Balducci was speaking, “put the corn on the ground” is the equivalent of “let’s put all our cards on the table.”

  11. Nomiss

    5. Back to corn on the ground. If you are using the baiting analogy, this reference still works. Lackey would put his corn (bait) on the ground to show Balducci what he had to bait Scruggs with, and Balducci would put his corn (bait) on the ground to show what he had to bait Lackey with.

  12. MSlawyer

    I’ve heard an old saying, “let’s put the corn on the ground so the goats can get at it.” Meaning, let’s put it in plain terms so it can be readily understood. I don’t know if Balducci was using the phrase in this way.

  13. ThirdSouth

    I think that’s hay you put down so the goats can get it. And I’m just curious if game wardens approve of baiting fields in Mississippi with corn or anything else?

  14. jim

    #7 regarding Blake should be easy. What a great start they have with the wire transfers from Scruggs to Langston to Blake’s account at First Tennessee. Then consider they have Langston,Balducci and Blake’s long time friend Patterson all supposedly cooperating. Surely they can follow this money trail–unless some higher ups want otherwise.

  15. two cents

    Zach is 33 years old, out of law school seven plus years. Does society really expect him to be the whistleblower for the goings on of his father’s law firm? Sure, that would have been admirable but put yourself in his position – what was a son to do? Losing his law license is punishment enough


    re: Trent Lott. USM is constructing a huge Trent Lott building on Hwy 49 through Hattiesburg. Why has the sign been taken down?

  17. Ironic

    Does not mike moore’s appearance for zach simply indicate that he is a close member of this particular crime family? Perhaps he is showing his loyalty publically to dickie? Ironic that a former AG is putting personal friendships ahead of the law and a judicial crisis in MS, huh? MS deserves better. Gotta wonder how deep this crime family goes, and how the slush fund is being spread around.
    How ironic….

  18. Tim

    Mike was brought in to try to work a deal where a stalemate had been reached over 1 years to serve. Mike is highly respected and I would lay you 10 to 1 odds that he came up with the misprision of a felony charge to resolve the stalemate. However, I don’t believe Zach is out of the woods as Judge Biggers may give him time regardless.

  19. Nomiss

    Tim, I disagree that Mike Moore is highly respected. I wouldn’t think that Moore would impress the prosecutors or the judge in this case.

  20. My Thoughts

    Tim, I’ll take that bet and double it. Moore wanted to go to trial.

  21. M.Williams

    Fodder – David, I didn’t mean your site. I was unclear. The item I termed fodder, which is useless fodder, is in the NY Times. Let me Post that in forgiveness. Your site is super, and I like how you get it, even from this foreign country here. I guess if you don’t post me, I’ll just have to get on my Honda and go bumping up the roads for fun along the Atlanic Ocean.

  22. Disbar Dickie Scruggs?

    Not so fast, he says — the Mississippi Bar didn’t file a “certified copy” of his guilty plea. (Patsy R. Brumfield, “Dickie Scruggs files to dismiss attempt to have him disbarred”, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal,…