The Final Verdict: Case Closed
In June 1997, nearly a decade after the Sherry murders, the trial of Halat and the others opened. The government's case was similar to the one they presented six years earlier but with the added factor of Halat's presence at the defense table this time as a defendant, not as a witness for the defense. It may have been Halat's worst nightmare come to pass when Gillich took the witness stand and swore, under oath, that Halat was up to his ears in both the lonelyhearts scam and the Sherry murders.
The defense attorneys, in keeping with the pattern established at the earlier trial, tried to undermine the state's case by underlining the debatable credibility of testimony by convicted criminals and proven liars. However, this time the state's key witness, Gillich, was someone who had been seated at the defense table during the first trial, and his role at the center of the earlier, proved conspiracy had been firmly established. What he would have to say about that role in court almost had to be believed. Who could tell insider details better?
The second trial finally gave prosecutors the long-awaited opportunity to introduce key testimony that couldn't be included earlier. It was Chuck Leger's statement about Halat's reaction to finding Vince's body. Leger testified that Halat told him, "Vince and Margaret are dead," even though Halat had only seen Vince's body at that point. How could Halat have known both of them were dead if he hadn't seen both bodies? He had to have known about the murder ahead of time.
This last revelation appeared to cook Halat's goose. When the defense had their turn, the best they could do was call two witnesses whose grand total of testimony time was under two hours. Following closing arguments, the jury deliberated for a week before reaching a verdict.
Halat was found guilty on charges of lying and concealing records of Nix's prison scam. The next day, he and the other defendants were found guilty of conspiring to commit murder. Several months later, sentences were passed. Life for Nix and Holcomb, five years for LaRa for obstruction of justice, and eighteen years for Halat.
The trial of Glenn Cook, the ex-cop turned getaway driver, was postponed because he proved to be psychotic. He would later be convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison.
In exchange for Gillich's testimony, Judge Pickering initially rewarded him with a reduction of his sentence. Sixty-seven years old at this point, Gillich would only have to serve five more years. The term was subsequently lowered even more, to two years, followed by supervised probation and community service, when Barrett pleaded for a shorter sentence and the Sherry children told the judge they forgave Gillich upon his private apology to Lynne and his later public one in open court.
Numerous failed appeals later including one to the U.S. Supreme Court Halat is still in prison. He won't be free until at least 2013.
Like the 1990 Patrick Swayze movie, Ghost, which eerily hit theaters while the Sherry case was unfolding, a man had his best friend and business partner knocked off because that friend was getting too close to discovering a conspiracy involving large sums of ill-gotten money. The entire Sherry murder case, in fact, reads like a movie, which it may ultimately become
According to Humes' Web site, development of the film version of Mississippi Mud continues, with the respected New Zealand director Gregor Nicholas (Broken English) at the helm. Joan Allen (The Contender) will star as Lynne Sposito. Capa Productions' Barbara De Fina (Gangs of New York, The Grifters, GoodFellas) is producing, and Martin Scorsese is executive producer. No date has been set for the film's release.