Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Biloxi Confidential

Closing Arguments

Following the final witnesses, all that remained was for both sides to make their closing arguments to the jury. The lawyers for the four defendants were allowed to make their statements first, giving the prosecution the advantage of knowing what and how to rebut in their own closing statements.

Ransom's lawyer, Rex Jones, went first. As expected and, as a harbinger of what was to come, Jones tried to torpedo the credibility of most of the state's witnesses. Emphasizing their legal liabilities, he argued that prosecution witnesses like Hallal, Rhodes, and others were telling the government what it wanted to hear in exchange for immunity, reduced sentences, or both. In many capital cases the prosecution has to rely on testimony from shady characters, and their testimony is nearly always suspect. As Rex Armisted had explained to Lynne Sposito years earlier, "How many front-row members of the First Baptist Church do you know that have personal knowledge of a contract killing?" The implication was clear. In the absence of honest, upstanding believable individuals, jurors had little choice but to weigh and sift the testimony of known criminals: in most cases, the only ones to witness crimes as they occurred.

Jim Rose's strategy was to attempt dissect the state's witnesses' testimony, citing inconsistencies between the accounts they gave on the witness stand and earlier statements made to investigators. Rose also tried to portray the defendants in a more favorable light, citing LaRa's devotion to her children, Ransom's devotion to his wife and daughter, and Gillich's contributions to his church and family. As for Nix, Rose tried to elicit sympathy from the jury by maintaining that Nix only scammed victims lusting after "young boys," and that they got what they deserved.

Necaise argued that if the four defendants had been charged on the basis of the evidence presented then Halat should have been indicted, as well. The fact that he wasn't there, at the defense table with the other four defendants, Necaise maintained, meant that the government didn't believe their own witnesses.

The prosecution kept to the strategy they had mapped out at the beginning of the trial: to prove, by the evidence and testimony, that a conspiracy existed. A conspiracy involving big money, the motive for murder when that money went astray. Peter Barrett argued to the jury that, since large sums of money had been reported missing, someone would have to take the fall for crossing a dangerous man like Kirksey Nix. Neither Gillich nor Halat had wanted to take that fall, so they implicated Vince Sherry, Barrett theorized.

As for Margaret's death, Barrett argued that it was "a bonus." Her efforts to shut down Gillich's operations, and the very real possibility that she could become Biloxi's next mayor, were threats to the future plans of both Gillich and Halat, who coveted the mayor's office himself. Her death allowed Gillich to keep on operating his illegal activities and allowed Halat to run for mayor without the opposition of his law partner's wife.

And, as if in warning to the still-unidicted Halat, Barrett pointed to the defense table and said, "There is one more thing you need to remember. We take investigations one step at a time."

Following the state's closing arguments, the jury retired to deliberate.


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