By Charlton Stanley, Weekend Contributor
As I write this, the news is still coming in, and the full story is far from being told. I will provide breaking news as I hear it, but our intrepid bloggers should consider the comments an Open Thread. If you have solid news to report, please do so, and source the information. Otherwise it is just gossip.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that conspiracy theorists are breaking out the tinfoil hats.
What do we know about the death of Mississippi attorney Mark Mayfield? He lived in Ridgeland, Mississippi, a bedroom suburb just north of the city of Jackson. He was 57 years old. About 9:00 Friday morning, he was found dead in his home of a single gunshot wound. There was a note, but authorities have not revealed the contents. That is not unusual. When I worked in the state that was general policy with investigators across the state. Sometimes suicide notes are poignant, sad, and express intense pain. Other notes have content so gross or inflammatory they could not be printed in a family newspaper. In cases of suicide notes, the families often are reluctant to permit release to the public. In other cases, the note may implicate other people in a crime, or include confidential information. If the latter is the case, release of the content of a suicide note risks compromising an ongoing investigation, especially if sealed indictments are involved. Nothing should be read into it if the note contents are not released and made public.
Mayfield was a major supporter of the Tea Party in Mississippi. They fielded a candidate to run against Senator Thad Cochran in the Republican primary, Chris McDaniel. During the run-up to the primary, several men gained illegal entry into the nursing home where Senator Cochran’s wife was staying. She has Alzheimer’s disease. The actual break-in was actually implemented by a Tea Party blogger named Clayton Kelley, who was arrested. A photo of Mrs. Cochran was posted on a website, presumably Kelley’s. It was taken down a short time later.
Kelley was arrested along with four men, including lawyer Mayfield. The others arrested in the incident were Richard Sager, a high school coach and John Beachman Mary of Hattiesburg. Mary was not taken into custody because of what were described as “extensive medical conditions.”
All the men face felony conspiracy charges. I have not found a complete list of all the charges, but I am sure some would have been added later. For one there is a major HIPAA violation.
My take on this as a professional who has worked in the field for more than forty years, is that Mayfield felt he had no options left. His career as a lawyer was over. He knew he would lose his license to practice and almost certainly was going to be sent to prison. Life as he knew it in the past was ended; that is, after he was released from prison.
There are many professions where one can recover and rebuild after a conviction. Martha Stewart is an example of reinventing oneself. On the other hand, actor Fatty Arbuckle never was able to reestablish a career. Having made a study of suicide over the years, and taught a doctoral level course on Thanatology, there is one overriding element almost all suicides have in common. The subject believes there is literally no way out of the bleak situation they are in. That leads to a feeling of hopelessness. This in turn causes a kind of tunnel vision in which they can envision only one way out.
Setting political issues aside for a moment, I believe this is a time for empathy for Mark Mayfield’s family and loved ones. His criminal defense attorney, Merrida “Buddy” Coxwell is a long time acquaintance of mine, and I believe he expressed it as well as I can, “…he was a client, but more importantly, he was a friend for almost 34 years. My heart is completely broken. This is beyond tragic and the people of this community and state have lost a good man…”
The recriminations can start later. I will say; however, that my contacts in Mississippi tell me the Tea Party regulars have tight sphincter syndrome regarding what Mayfield may have put in that note.
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