Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Biloxi Confidential


Sequestered in Hattiesburg hotel rooms from a Thursday evening to the following Monday afternoon, the jury deliberated for 34 hours. Finally, at 3:30 p.m., Monday, November 11, 1991, the jury foreman sent a note to the bailiff guarding their privacy announcing the conclusion of deliberations. Two hours and fifteen minutes later, the jury, the defendants and their lawyers, and the lawyers for the state along with Lynne Sposito and other spectators, assembled in the courtroom. The verdict was about to be announced.

On the first count the all-important conspiracy to commit fraud: "Guilty," the court clerk announced.

On the count of wire fraud, the basis of the scam itself, guilty verdicts were read for all four defendants.

On the third count, involving interstate travel with intent to murder for hire, Nix and Gillich were convicted. Ransom was acquitted. On the fourth count, involving interstate travel by Ransom to commit murder for hire on August 8 and 9, 1987, all three of the men were acquitted. The reason for acquittal, jurors later explained when they were free to discuss the case, was that the indictment had the date wrong. The Sherry murders took place more than a month after those August dates.

LaRa Sharpe was not charged on either of the last two counts.

It would be another six months before sentencing was handed down. Defense lawyers stubbornly refused to accept the verdict and tried to delay sentencing by leveling multiple charges against the government. Finally Judge Pickering had enough of the delaying tactics and told the defense lawyers to prepare for sentencing in March 1992.

Halat, meanwhile, used the verdicts as further evidence of his own innocence and vindication. He announced publicly that the jury did not believe the account of Bill Rhodes, who had implicated him in his statements and court testimony. However, jurors countered that they believed Rhodes and, had Halat been among the defendants, he, too, would have been convicted.


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