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Tobacco Firms Win Delay On Papers

Thu., March 27, 1997

Plaintiff attorneys and state prosecutors came up short in their efforts to get sensitive tobacco industry documents released here Wednesday, but the most incriminating papers should become public by Friday unless tobacco lawyers can block them.

In a high stakes tug of war over nothing less than the future of the tobacco industry, attorneys suing cigarette makers convinced Circuit Court Judge Billy J. Landrum that the papers should be entered as evidence in a court case here. But Landrum delayed the release for 48 hours, to give tobacco companies time to seek an injunction from the state Supreme Court.

Mississippi Attorney General Michael Moore said the tobacco lawyers were just putting off the inevitable. “There is no question in my mind these documents will see the light of day, and soon,” he said. “Judges aren’t falling for the tobacco line - they’re for getting the truth out.”

A set of 11 documents, said to implicate tobacco companies in a broad effort to mislead the public on the harmful effects and addictiveness of smoking, are now a step closer to being released. Those 11 documents are among hundreds of pages of papers turned over by the Liggett Group, as part of that company’s historic settlement with a number of state attorneys general.

Ron Motley, who is assisting the 22 attorneys general suing tobacco companies to recoup health costs, said the tobacco industry is fighting the release of the papers because they are so damning. He said that while he has not seen all the documents himself, he did see an entry for one document that records a recommendation to destroy documents listing ingredients and additives in cigarettes.

“That was so the federal government would not see those chemicals and additives,” Motley said. “It’s evidence of a conspiracy. It’s obstruction of justice.”


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