The movie ‘Ghosts of Mississippi’ details the 1994 court case that was meant to put white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith to justice. Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist, was assassinated on June 12, 1963 by Beckwith, but both of the trials ended in hung juries – juries of all white males. When Evers’ wife Myrlie revived the case in 1989, assistant District Attorney Bobby DeLaughter ambitiously took the 30-year-old suit. Although it was a very moral effort for DeLaughter, the reopening of the case brought harsh criticism from his fellow Mississippians.
Persevering through his own self-doubt, Myrlie Evers’ determination, his wife’s skepticism, public condemnation, and even physical threats, DeLaughter fought for justice. He was driven not only by his own will to win his court case, but also his wish to show that the people of Jackson, Mississippi, had overcome the bigotry they held during the era in which Evers was first tried. It was with the help of new evidence and witnesses and a much more diverse and unbiased jury that DeLaughter was able to win the court case. De La Beckwith was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1994, by a jury of eight blacks and four whites. The court system of Mississippi evolved through this monumental decision.
Despite the enormous change in ethics that the nation has come through since the Civil Rights Movement, it is still evident that there is more to be done. As he was portrayed in the movie, DeLaughter was surprised, even in the South, by the deep racial prejudice held by those around him as he persisted with the case. This death was brought to justice – thirty years late, but settled nonetheless. However, the discrimination prevalent today has yet to be completely extinguished.
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