Lott Says He Is Not Being Investigated, May Testify

This story was written by Paul Quinn, Daily Mississippian
Former Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott confirmed Monday that he might be a witness in the government's case against Richard Scruggs, Zach Scruggs and the Scruggs law firm attorney Sidney Backstrom.

Lott said he has been assured he is not under investigation for contacting Judge Bobby DeLaughter and informing DeLaughter of his consideration for a lifelong appointed federal judgeship.

"Nothing was done to justify that," Lott told The Biloxi Sun Herald Monday.

Lott said he received more than one recommendation for DeLaughter, as well as recommendations for several other potential candidates.

Meanwhile, Scruggs and his co-defendants have filed several motions in the past few days.

U.S. district attorneys requested that the jury pool come from all eight districts in northern Mississippi, and that the jury be sequestered when the trial occurs. Scruggs' defense attorneys have no opinion about these requests, court documents say.

The district attorneys have also requested an anonymous jury. This would make it impossible for defense attorneys, media outlets or anyone else to learn the identity of potential jurors or any other information about them, including where they live - information usually available in federal court cases.

Attorneys commonly like to have jurors' addresses so they can learn jurors' financial status, or so they can contact acquaintances of potential jurors and learn personal information about them. This information can aid attorneys during jury selection.

Part of the government's argument to have an anonymous jury stems from pretrial publicity in the Scruggs case.

The government cited the Supreme Court decision United States v. Edwards in its motion as part of its argument for an anonymous jury.

"The extensive publicity could enhance the possibility that jurors' names would become public and expose them to intimidation and harassment," the motion said.

Scruggs' defense team argues the government has already acknowledged that pretrial publicity does not arouse "deep passions" among local readers.

"While being considered a 'greedy trial lawyer' is unflattering, it is unlikely to generate visceral passions for revenge akin to those incited by mail bombing and mass murder," the defense's motion against an anonymous jury says.

Defense attorneys also argue the government is speculating when it says that making the jurors' names public would lead to juror tampering or intimidation.

Presiding Judge Neal Biggers is expected to rule today on whether evidence from the case, in which Joey Langston pleaded guilty for bribing Judge DeLaughter, will be allowed in Scruggs' case.

Prosecutors say this evidence would show Scruggs committed "bad acts" in prior court cases. Scruggs already has been implicated by Langston for being involved in the bribing of Judge DeLaughter. Biggers is also expected to rule on the motion to disallow information collected during the government's wiretap and on the defense's motion to split the Zach Scruggs and Sidney Backstrom trials from the Dickie Scruggs trial.

Scruggs' defense team submitted a memorandum in support of suppressing wiretaps on Monday, arguing FBI agent William Delaney "repeatedly usurped the role of the court by unilaterally making his own probable cause determinations." Among the probable cause determinations the defense team submitted were incorrectly stated telephone conversations and material omissions contained within phone calls and other statements that Delaney made.

Scruggs, his son and Backstrom were indicted in November for attempting to bribe circuit Judge Henry Lackey by offering him $40,000 for a favorable ruling in a insurance fee dispute case over a Hurricane Katrina mass settlement.

The trial is scheduled to bgin March 31.
© 2008 Daily Mississippian via U-WIRE