MISSISSIPPI MUD: Southern Justice and the Dixie Mafia by Edward Humes

MISSISSIPPI MUD: Southern Justice and the Dixie Mafia

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A hothouse atmosphere of crime and political corruption flavors this true-crime tale from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Humes (Murder With a Badge, 1992). The title -- a reference to a form of poker that involves bluffing and the betrayal of fellow players -- is a metaphor for brazen corruption in Mississippi. A notable example is Biloxi, a city of both graceful antebellum mansions and a sleazy zone of strip joints, whorehouses, casinos, and drug dens run by thugs and con artists known as the ""Dixie Mafia"" and winked at by politicians and police. In September 1987, this city of easy virtue was rocked by the slaying of mayoral candidate Margaret Sherry and her husband, Vince, a well-known state circuit judge. Prior to her death Margaret had hurled corruption charges at the mayoral incumbent and Vince had spoken from the bench of threats against his life. Yet the Biloxi police pursued the bizarre theory that the Sherrys' son Eric had murdered his parents in a rage after discovering that he was adopted. The police further failed to question key witnesses and mishandled physical evidence, prompting the Sherrys' daughter Lynne to involve the county sheriffs office and the FBI, hire a private detective, and even dig up leads herself. Eventually, suspicion settled on a cast of characters that included a cold-eyed, one-legged hit man; a lifer using money from a gay lonely-hearts scam to bribe his way out of prison; and Vince's friend and law partner, Pete Halat, who allegedly allowed his office to be used in the seam and later provided conflicting accounts of his discovery of the Sherrys' bodies. Four years later, four defendants were convicted of the murder -- but Halat, later mayor himself, was never formally charged. Not surprisingly, this engrossing case of Deep South corruption and murder is being adapted for a four-part NBC-TV miniseries, with Valerie Bertinelli as the spunky avenging angel.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster