Killen seeks OK to pursue new trial in 1964 deaths

Court NewsBy Jack Elliott Jr.

Associated Press

JACKSON – The U.S. Supreme Court is considering arguments from a former Ku Klux Klansman convicted in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers.

Edgar Ray Killen says he was denied constitutional rights in his Mississippi trial.

Killen made the same arguments to a federal judge in Mississippi in 2012 and before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans earlier this year. He lost in both courts.

The Mississippi attorney general’s office said Tuesday that it had notified the Supreme Court that no response to Killen’s petition would be filed.

Killen’s attorney, Robert A. Ratliff of Mobile, Ala., did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Killen was convicted of manslaughter in 2005, 41 years after the deaths of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney. He is serving 60 years in prison.

On June 21, 1964, Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner disappeared in Neshoba County. The FBI found their bodies buried in an earthen dam Aug. 4, 1964, several miles from where they had been abducted by Ku Klux Klansmen.

In 1967, seven men were convicted of federal charges of violating the civil rights of the men killed. None served more than six years in prison. The trial for Killen, a reputed Klan leader and part-time preacher, on the federal charges ended in a hung jury.

The slayings shocked the nation, helped spur passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and were dramatized in the 1988 movie “Mississippi Burning.”

In court papers, Killen’s attorneys said they want to pursue several issues including that Killen’s defense team did a poor job.

Killen also argues several constitutional rights violations, including the 41-year delay between the trio’s deaths and his indictment, variances between the charges in the indictment and the jury’s verdict, and prosecutors’ failure to turn over evidence that could prove his innocence.

U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate in Jackson, Miss., and the 5th Circuit both ruled Killen failed to make “a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right” that would persuade a court to grant him a new trial on those issues.

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  • Americasgone

    You are a true patriot and obviously loved your country very much.

  • Kevin

    Killen is most likely the mastermind behind the 1964 slaying of the civil rights workers. The guy was mean as a rattlesnake and racist as hell. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. But as an American, even one with repulsive viewpoints and actions, he deserves a fair trial. I believe that he didn’t get one back in 2005. That trial was politically motivated and came about after the result of hard selling by various members of the Philadelphia community, including the editor/publisher of the Neshoba Democrat, who was good friends, I believe, with Jim Hood. The Philadelphia group wanted the trial in 2005 so it would attract attention to the town and people from all over the world would descend upon the little hamlet, stay in hotels, eat at McDonald’s, and gamble at the casinas (what Haley calls them). I watched the trial back in 2005 and it seemed to me as if the decision was a foregone conclusion. It was as if Jim Hood slept walked through it and it just didn’t seem fair at all. Even though I’m sure was behind those killings in his capacity as a KKK leader, I think the high court should allow a new trial and it should probably take place somewhere other than Philadelphia so the chamber of commerce types down there won’t get to profit off of it again.