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Dear Matthew Alice:

I remember hearing on the news once that in one of those Southern states some men had been charged with attempted murder for hiring a hit man to kill a judge. The hit man was a voodoo practitioner who was supposed to kill the judge by sticking pins into doll or whatever it is that voodooists do. I never heard anything further about this case. I had looked forward to extensive media coverage. Can you find out what happened in this case?

-- CC, Vista

Another great moment in litigation. It all started early in 1989, when a Mississippi circuit court judge sentenced John Ivy to 40 years in the state pen at Parchman for robbery. That gave John plenty of time to devise the perfect revenge.

John's brother Leroy happened to know the judge's housekeeper, so they set up a three-way phone call with the lady ad asked her to get a picture of her boss and a lock of his hair. The Ivys' plan was to send these to a voodoo practitioner in New Orleans, who would then use the articles to put a curse on the judge. To no one's surprise (except the Ivys', apparently), the housekeeper alerted the judge, then set up a rendezvous with Leroy, handed over the goods, and the Tupelo police snapped the cuffs on him. Both brothers were charged with conspiracy to murder.

Leroy's attorney claimed it was a waste of taxpayers' money to prosecute someone for soliciting a death by voodoo. The DA countered by saying the Ivys' plan was no different from hiring a hit man who couldn't shoot straight; it's not the efficacy of the method, it's the intent of the plotters that matters in conspiracy. The law was on the side of the state. According to Leroy's Tupelo attorney, the brothers pleaded guilty to conspiracy one day before the trial began. In exchange, Leroy's sentence was suspended and he received probation. John's bright idea will cost him a few more years in Parchman.

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