CLOSING ARGUMENTS: Each side presses for jury decision


CLOSING ARGUMENTS: I was typing as fast as I could. Some of these words are paraphrase, other direct quotes. Regardless, I hope you get the gist of both statements.


Hood led the way in the state’s closing arguments. He began strong with reminders that people didn’t do their duty, especially law enforcement. He evoked “Southern pride” with references to hospitality and valor in battle. But, he said, this Southern preacher didn’t do his duty.

“He directed this murder,” he said of Killen.

“How much time is enough that murder is not a crime anymore?” Hood asked. “How much time does it take to diminish the truth” and the quest for justice? Killen has counted on time, he has counted that the witnesses of this crime being dead by this trial. Hood passed out photographs of the murder victims to jurors.

Some of you have asked why I am here, he said. “Because this is where justice is done.

“I wish some of my predecessors had done their duty. I wouldn't have to be here, to have missed my daughter’s second birthday.”

This is not good politics, to bring this case us, Hood said. “I didn't want to feel those old emotions of regret that we didn’t take care of business back then. But we still have a duty that we have to follow.”

“Another reason I'm here — I wanted to be here myself, I didn't want to have any regrets. That I did my duty to the victims and their families.”

Then he turned his remarks to the victims — “They came down here doing God's work. They were here in peace. They weren’t troublemakers. They were doing the same things that we are doing in Iraq — fighting for people's freedoms. They showed a lot of courage. They were heroes for being here to grant people the freedom to vote.”

Talking about honor, he said “those mothers have waited 41 years tomorrow to be put before a jury on murder charges.” (The murders occurred June 21, 1964.)

Specifically to the jury, he admonished them not to vote on sympathetic feelings, racial beliefs.

“What we have to prove is that the defendant had the intent to kill. We don't have to prove who pulled the trigger. We have to prove that the defendant organized this crime and that his participation was enough to prove that he was an accessory before the fact.”

What actions do you have to prove intent to kill:
– The defendant was the mastermind of it all. He recruited all the members. He announced that the order had been approved, to eliminate Schwerner. He conveyed the message that they were going to kill them, not beat them up.
– He told Wallace Miller that they burned the church to lure the civil rights workers back up here. He met with Miller and others at a Philadelphia cafe about stopping blacks to play baseball. It proved he could bring law enforcement in when he needed them.
– He bragged that the FBI couldn’t prove any phone calls because he said he went down to Meridian to talk to people instead. He also told Klansmen to use rubber gloves, not cloth gloves, which indicated they were to be murdered, not beaten.
– If they were just going to beat them up and accidentally got killed, why didn’t somebody tell it? They already had the gravesite ready if they were just going to beat them up? He had the gun disposed of, he had dozer operators ready.

All those things indicate murder. He even knew the last words to Mickey Schwerner, “I know how you feel, sir.”

“The very next day, he told all this information to Mike Hatcher.” (Killen was asleep as Hood said these words.)

Hood recounted Hatcher's words from Killen that “we” got rid of those civil rights workers. Killen was a part of it and he organized it and he’s guilty of the crime of murder.

“If you don’t believe he's guilty of felony murder, then he's still guilty. If you commit a crime of kidnapping — it's felony manslaughter if they die during the commission of that crime. So he still got caught there. But he knew all along what they were going to do with those bodies, that they were going to bury them, he knew there was going to be a murder all along.”

Our duty to the victims is to follow the instructions, without sympathy and without concern or fear or anything. Our duty — is to give a fair trial to this defendants .. but also to the victims in this case.

Hood said there are several heroes in this case, Hatcher one of them. Another police officer, Wallace Miller, now deceased, testified in the 1967 case to the truth of what happened. Another is Mike Winstead, the convict, who didn’t get a thing for telling what he heard when he was 10 years old.

Killen was '”he main man,” Hood said. He did all the planning and then, like a coward, went back to the funeral home for an alibi.

Some of you may think, “Let God deal with it.” You have a duty, you have a right to vote but with that right comes a responsibility and a duty to follow the law and to hold that defendant responsible for his actions.

Reasonable doubt — “there is no doubt in this courtroom that this defendant organized these murders. You have his own words that he was a leader in the Klan. These acts were not sanctioned by God, they were sanctioned by that man right there (meaning Killen). Being in the Klan shows a cowardly act to me. If you don’t stand for something and want somebody to know who were are, it's a cowardly act. You saw the venom in his brother when he testified on the stand. That coward wants to hide behind this thing and put the pressure on you. He wants one of you to be weak and find him not guilty. There he sits wanting your sympathy. He doesn't want you to know that he left these young boys in a grave, no funeral, no casket, dumped in their like a dog.

“This note that Andy Schwerner wrote to his mother and dad — 41 years ago today, he wrote that letter (Hood read it to the jury). He was here one day, drove up here, then run down, captured and murdered. That's not the Mississippi I grew up in, it's not the Neshoba County that I know.

“I ask you to do your duty to honor this country, these victims — and find this man, Edgar Ray Killen guilty of murder.”


“This is awful, grotesque that happened 41 years ago. My heart goes out to the victims, their families, the old ladies that testified here.

“I agree with Mr. Hood. He said to listen to the evidence and follow the law. It's not about sympathy. It's based solely upon the facts and the witnesses that have testified here — that's all it is.

“Mr. Hood would have you believe that these pictures are associated with the crime — you've got to look at the whole picture. The burden of proof is far from a reasonable doubt. There is a reasonable doubt.

“Every witness that testified lied. (He criticized witnesses that were paid informants.) But the state of Mississippi and the federal government could pay the witnesses all they want to and get the kind of testimony they wanted.

“Mr. Hatcher admitted this morning that he lied. Was he lying then, or was he lying now? (He said the state and federal government paid more than $150,000 for informants to testify in 1967.) I don't think there's any disputing that Mr. Edgar Ray Killen was associated with the Klan.

McIntyre said there's no proof he was at the scene of the murders. “The only thing he's guilty of it of having a big mouth and talking all the time.”

“The State of Mississippi has sought to prosecute this case. Why? Crime knocks on our doors every day. But why does the state — decide to prosecute this case? This is not a case to solve a crime — it's a case to pull back the curtains for the TV cameras. They sent their top lawyer up here — they even hired a man (to help pick a jury). (Killen was sleeping at this point.) Where are the rest of the defendants in this case? Suggest (they prosecuted Killen) — is that nothing more than a — that the news media has found him guilty already. But thank God for our system that we've got a jury.

“If I offended you in any way, please don't hold that against Mr. Killen.

“This has does nothing but agitate the citizens of the state of Mississippi. I feel sorry for the families of the victims. But when justice is done, they will go back to New York or Oregon. But we're going to have to live with this trial. What this does is go back and bring up the old problems.

“We don't live 41 years ago. This is a complete distraction for the citizens of the state of Mississippi. Is this going to help the cultural differences again? This old crime is not a threat to the state of Mississippi. How about justice and protection right now? It disturbs me. I know what is happening in this society — crime is taking over. This is nothing but a show, nothing but an arena.

(He criticized the character of the state's witnesses. He also said the prosecution never showed any evidence of kidnapping, which was an element in the crime of manslaughter.)

“I don't even attempt to guess what you're going to do. But I want you to think long and hard – has the state met that burden of proof? You make sure that your decision is right and one that you carry through the rest of your life. This man's life is in your hands. He’s slept a lot during the trial — but is this case justice and fair play. I think it's a case to pull back the curtains for the TV cameras and draw a lot of publicity. But you can't find this man guilty because he belongs to an organization of hate.

“After everybody's all gone home, we've still got to live here together with each other. This is nothing but a distraction. I hope you'll find that there's a reasonable doubt and find this man not guilty.”


“Let the chips fall where they may. The state said they would provide the crime of capital murder, beyond a reasonable doubt. I state to you what the evidence was going to show — that you could assume that Edgar Killen was associated with the Klan, that he had knowledge of the crime, not that he committed the crime.

“It's easy to get sidetracked and not get focused on what we’re here for today. Whether Edgar Killen committed capital murder. I state to you, not only have they failed to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt but to provide any evidenced to provide anything in this case.

“Trying to prove that Edgar Killen planned, orchestrated, put the hit out on them, godfather, however you want to look at it. Now, that day Edgar Killen was a kleagle in the Klan. Well, it's a little interesting that just about everybody who testified they all made kleagle … basically someone who recruits other members. I tried to get it out of Hatcher what the officers were … he had very selective memory. He said last Friday that he was a kleagle, that Wallace Miller's testimony was that he was a kleagle, too.

“We've heard testimony about the hierarchy of the Klan as far as the elimination process … it's my understanding that the Cyclops was the president of the local chapter. That would have been a Mister Herndon. It was testified that at one of these klan meeting, it was discussed the elimination of Michael Schwerner. It was also stated at that same time that Michael Schwerner had already been spoken for by another Klan chapter … meaning other than the Neshoba County chapter. So, whoever made the orders on Michael Schwerner it was not from the Neshoba County chapter … and that Sam Bowers approved it.

“Now, let]s talk about credible evidence. When the state put the, I call him the convict … on the stand, that was the only new evidence that has came or was showed in this case. I believe he came forward a year ago, two years ago. All the other evidence is evidence from 40 years ago … from a trial in 1967. Now, it's very hard to defend somebody when a case is built around … I'm unable to cross examine them, you're not able to look at the demeanor of the witness. You can't tell if they are lying or not. All that should play a role in the way you look at the evidence … whether this case has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Now, I don't want you to feel like or put into this the age of my client or the state put on three witnesses, family members. It was a very tragic loss. I felt emotional sympathy for these people. It felt terrible … to ask them to relive this again in front of everybody 40 years later. It offered no evidentiary help to you at all. The only purpose they served was in trying to divert attention from the elements of this crime … to try to motivate you. Everybody wants to help them. They say it's a terrible crime … is there anything you can do today?

“I state that it's very very hard to try to determine from guilt from evidence that’s 40 years old. How can you take the testimony of a convicted rapist credible? He can be telling the truth and he's still not credible. Does that go to any elements of the crime? Does that show that he planned, that he was the ringleader? Absolutely not. It doesn't show anything they couldn’t say about any member of the Klan in Neshoba County.

“Do we know who he allegedly gave the orders to? Do we know anybody else that planned or schemed in this situation. I state the Edgar Killen wasn't even there that night. There's no testimony saying any other possible scenario. He didn't participate in the killings.

“(On the jury questionnaire) people stated they wanted to know the truth. The truth still hasn’t been told … it's out there.

“Now, the gentleman that was up here today (Hatcher), the first day he testified that Killen came to him and said we took care of the civil rights workers. I asked him if he’d ever seen Killen give an order. He said no. How can you plan and orchestrate a plan and crime such as this without giving orders? Everybody’s expecting you to guess on what happened.

“Now, I know that this is a very difficult position for all you members of the jury. It's a delicate situation, issues hard to talk about, nobody wants to hurt anybody’s feelings …I state to you that you took an oath as a juror … you have to look at this evidence, whether you like Edgar Killen or not. These civil rights workers were out there … to promote the right to vote. That right is just as fundamental as Edgar's right to a jury.

“I'm asking you, don't deprive him of that right. Two wrongs do not make a right. It was wrong what happened to those civil rights workers in 1964 and it would be wrong to deprive Edgar Killen of a fair trial now.

“I'm really not sure why Edgar Killen is the only one on trial today. We all know that there were several people involved in this. Why is Edgar the only one on trial? If you planned and orchestrated a crime, must you not prove a crime was committed and by who? Has anybody heard any proof about who killed them? Folks, we can’t change history. This trial … testimony and evidence was a federal trial in 1967. We can't change that verdict. We can go forward. We can make sure history doesn't repeat itself.

“We should be trying to look at what we can do … that Mississippi will not allow this to happen again. … The real crime was that he was not prosecuted in 1964. It's because the evidence is not there … except that he was associated with the Klan, some evidence that he had some knowledge of the crime. He is on trial for neither one.

“Was there any credible evidence … which you could make a decision and find somebody guilty of capital murder … with proof beyond a reasonable doubt?

(Here he criticized Mike Hatcher's testimony.)
“That man sat in a meeting and made a statement under oath that he heard them planning the elimination of Michael Schwerner. Did he even come forward? He could have stopped it. He's the man with the badge. (Hatcher was a police officer at the time.) That certainly is not credible. That man will say whatever the thinks he’s suppose to say.

“I don't know what the demeanor was of these witnesses that testified in 1967. I can't comment on it. These witnesses are dead. It is very hard to defend someone where the evidence is just read into the record. But I’m asking you to look at the evidence objectively. Did they prove that Edgar Killen with premeditation, malice … go out there and murder civil rights workers? No, they didn't prove that. There's no evidence of intent. The only evidence that you have heard is evidence associating Edgar with the Klan … and showing that he might have had knowledge. Nothing in the record shows or distinguishes Edgar from every other member of the Klan.

“Now, back to the credible evidence. (People who testified as to his whereabouts), they are all credible.

“The '60s was a terrible era. I'm asking you to look at this evidence and hold the stat eothe burden of proving this case of reasonable doubt. (He insisted the jury couldn’t convict Killen with evidence from a convict and testimony from dead people.)

“Probably in the Klan, more than likely in the Klan (Killen is sleeping through this). No credible evidence. If you can use a dead witness” testimony to supplement the evidence that you have — the problem is that this the whole case. They took transcripts from a trial 40 years ago, add witnesses with no evidentiary testimony and tried to sell this to a jury. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to ask you again to hold them to the burden they said they would meet – they said they would prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Let the chips fall as they may. … Hold them to that burden. Look at this evidence. I state to you far from it. I ask you to return a verdict of not guilty.


(Began with talking about the jury instructions.)

“At the outset of this plan, was the intent to kill the three boys or just whip them?”

Duncan reminded them that if you are part of a crime, you're still guilty of the crime.

“That’s why it's not important of who pulled the trigger in this case.”

“As far as the evidence in this case, I want to talk to you a little bit about this now.

“If you've live here for any period of time, you've heard about this case … but I don't know that it's ever been told her about the stories of (the three civil rights workers). They were young men who devoted themselves to the service of others. … It was something back then that was so despised that it cost them their lives. They could have lived a much easier life than by coming down here.

“While Edgar Ray Killen has been able to enjoy the last 41 years of his life. Yesterday was father's day … there haven’t been any father's days these past 41 years for Andy, Mickey and J.E. I wonder if Mr. McIntyre thinks about things like that when he rails against this case being brought 41 years later.

“The main instigator of it was Edgar Ray Killen. He was the man who led these murders, set this plan in motion, recruited and directed those men to do the dirty work. Then, he didn't have the gumption to carry it out and went to a funeral home to establish an alibi.

“I want to talk about the evidence just a little bit.”

(Duncan broke the evidence down into before, during and after the murders.)

“The defendant-s response … is a lame attempt to proving an alibi. It's a feable attempt at one. Their only real response is that everybody's lying. Why do you think they got together and did that?

“They just had one hour to stand here and tell you everything they could why their client is not guilty — they just talked about why we shouldn't be here today.

“The evidence that Edgar Ray Killen is responsible for these murders is absolutely overwhelming. … He knew about this plan before it was set in motion, he executed this plan and admitted to participation later. No evidence that anyone else but Edgar Ray Killen arranged, plotted and helped execute these murders.

“Another story came out of the witness stand — it troubles me a great deal — is one that I suppose that I knew but one that I didn’t really want to remember … a description of our home the way it existed 40 years ago. I thought that's not the Neshoba County I know. People here don'T treat people that way, but I want to believe that just like these murders the people that acted in that way, that was the actions of a few and not the actions of the whole. I know there were good and decent people in Neshoba County in 1964 … and the quality of the people here now.”

Is a Neshoba County jury going to convict him of what he’s done? Is a Neshoba County jury going to tell the rest of the world that we are not going to let Edgar Ray Killen get away with murder not one day longer.

I was wondering what I might say to make you understand Edgar Ray Killen and his guilt. It just so happens one of my favorite movies was on TV – in the move, a general is about to lead his army into battle. He’s talking to his troops trying to encourage them and let them know they are going to a better place. He tells them, What you do in life echoes in eternity, what you do in life echoes in eternity. Think about that, what it means – that every decision we make lasts forever. What the defendant and his friends did to Mickey Schwerner, J.E. Chaney and Andy Goodman has echoed throughout the history of Neshoba County for 41 years tomorrow. (they) have written the history of Neshoba County.

What you do today is going to echo throughout the history of Neshoba County from now all. You can either change the history that Edgar Ray Killen and the Klan wrote for us or you can confirm it. All I’m asking you to do is to go back there, decided the case on what you’ve heard, hold the defendant responsible for what he did … find him guilty of murder. That’s the verdict the state of Mississippi asks you to return.

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