Thursday, 23 June 2005

Killen gets the book thrown at him

Although I can’t find a link yet, the top of the New York TImes home page is reporting that Edgar Ray Killen was just sentenced to 60 years in prison for his role in the Neshoba County killings. Enjoy rotting in Parchman, Eddie.

Update: C-L story here.

Tuesday, 21 June 2005

More on the Killen manslaughter verdict

Scipio further explains his view that the Killen manslaughter verdict indicates a weakness in the state’s case—and gives evidence from the Evers case that suggests the decision to seek the manslaughter instruction might reinforce the “political” nature of Killen’s prosecution:

Because of the peculiarity of Mississippi’s murder law, a defendant who is on the evidence guilty of murder can be convicted only of manslaughter without error attaching. But this is a decision the jury should be allowed to make, without the State telegraphing AS IT DID WITH ITS MOTION. When, immediately before trial, the State asks for a special instruction on manslaughter when murder is the real crime, it indicates a severe weakness in the case, and also that the indictment is deeply flawed.

Klansman Killen Konvicted

Contrary to my pessimism earlier today, the jury in Neshoba County today convicted Killen of three counts of manslaughter, a lesser charge than murder but one that, given the sentencing range, still will probably see Killen spending the rest of his life behind bars.

Update: Scipio wonders why the state asked for the manslaughter instruction in the case:

Additionally, what went wrong with the state's case? Why did they suddenly seek that manslaughter instruction?

Considering that the state's case was based primarily on old evidence from the civil rights trial of Killen and testimony from relatives of the deceased, and there were no surprises at trial, one has to wonder: why did the state indict for the top offense then chicken out? One obvious reason is to guarantee a conviction of some kind. But isn't securing a manslaughter conviction in place of a murder conviction a masterly coup on the part of the defense counsel, and a big downer for the state?

On the other hand, since it’s unlikely that Killen is going to ever be a free man again, I’m not all that sure it’s much of a coup for the defense.

Elsewhere: Steven Taylor has another story link on the case; the AP’s article is here. Finally, I’ve entered this into today’s OTB Traffic Jam.

Justice and show trials

James Joyner comments thusly on the jury deadlock in the Killen trial:

One of the many problems with digging up decades-old cases for re-prosecution in order to salve old wounds is that only one outcome is “acceptable.” Our criminal justice system is supposed to be geared to put the burden on the prosecution. In these cases, though, the guilt of the man on trial is assumed and the jury is expected to play their role in the grand show by convicting him. If they do, all is as expected. If they don’t, then it just goes to show that they’re a bunch of racists and society has not changed.

I believe Killen is guilty as sin—heck, the original trial in 1967 wouldn’t have come out 11–1 if he weren’t—but I really don’t know how you can prove that in a court of law with virtually no physical evidence, relying on less-than-credible witnesses and 42-year-old memories, and that’s the fundamental problem the prosecution is facing in this case..

I tend to think that “truth and reconciliation commissions” are a bit of a joke, but there’s something to be said for them in preference to having trials where the downside—the acquital of a pretty-obviously guilty man—is much bigger than the upside of the trial confirming the obvious. The success of the Beckwith “Ghosts of Mississippi” prosecution I fear may have distorted perceptions of this equation by state authorities.

Meanwhile, at least one witness at the trial was sounding a lot like Robert Byrd:

[A well-wisher]’s affections for the KKK were echoed Monday by defense witness Harlan Parks Major, who left office eight years ago after serving two four-year terms as Philadelphia mayor. “They do a lot of good for people,” Major said of the KKK, drawing indignant chuckles from some in the audience.

Nothing like a Song of the South-style whitewash of the Klan to brighten up one’s day.

Tuesday, 14 June 2005

Progress and regress

As reputed Klansman Edgar Ray Killen goes on trial for his role in the Philadelphia Three murders, the U.S. Senate decided to apologize for its complicity in Klan terrorism, which I suppose would be a more meaningful gesture if more than 6% of the Senate had shown up for the vote or if either senator from Mississippi, a.k.a. Lynching Central, had co-sponsored the bill. Steven Taylor has more thoughts on the belated apology.

Mind you, I’m not sure which is worse… the locals who are ignorant of the past or the non-locals who are ignorant of the present.

Sunday, 12 June 2005

No blood for corn

Ethanol is all over the news today; today’s New York Times has a piece noting the newfound popularity of gasohol in the Midwest due to high oil prices, while yesterday’s Clarion-Ledger finds some folks looking for a $8 million handout so Mississippi too can get on the ethanol-producing bandwagon (can you say beef plant?).

Saturday, 11 June 2005

Killen goes on trial

Edgar Ray Killen is set to go on trial in Philadelphia, Miss., for his alleged role in the “Philadelphia Three” murders on Monday, and the predictable flood of worldwide media coverage has materialized; probably the best pieces I’ve seen are from the New York Times and Canada’s National Post.

However, neither story makes it clear why Killen wasn’t tried again after his 1967 federal criminal trial that ended in a 11–1 hung jury; you’d think that an 11–1 jury vote would be a pretty strong indication that a second trial would have ended in a conviction… does anyone know the answer?

Saturday, 14 May 2005


Thanks to Backcountry Conservative Jeff Quinton for name-dropping our humble blog during his appearance on MSNBC’s “Connected: Coast to Coast” yesterday; he specifically referred to my posts on the BRAC list’s impact on Mississippi. If you didn’t see it live or on TiVo delay, Jeff’s link above has the streaming video; I think the Signifying Nothing mention is in response to the first question from Ron Reagan.

Friday, 13 May 2005

BRAC list not as bad as anticipated

James Joyner and Jeff Quinton have links to the real BRAC list, which wasn’t quite as sweeping as anticipated here. The only meaningful casualty in Mississippi is NS Pascagoula, which co-blogger Robert Prather points out is little more than a 20-year-old Trent Lott pork project.

Columbus AFB will actually gain jobs, Keesler will lose about 400 positions (about half contractor positions), and NAS Meridian only loses 16 jobs total.

Thursday, 12 May 2005

All your base belong to the BRAC list

Jeff Quinton has a post with a list of military bases allegedly (and I stress allegedly) on the Base Realignment and Closure list to be announced tomorrow. Among the casualties include Mississippi’s Columbus AFB, NAS Meridian, and Pascagoula NS, leaving (by my estimation) just Keesler AFB and the Sea Bee base in Gulfport in service.

Tuesday, 10 May 2005

Shack up and go to jail

John “Don’t Call Me Juan” Cole notes that the ACLU is challenging a 1805 North Carolina statute forbidding cohabitation by unmarried couples in court. For those considering living in sin elsewhere, the Tar Heel State is not alone in its opprobrium toward cohabitors:

North Carolina is one of seven states that still have laws on the books prohibiting cohabitation of unmarried couples. The others are Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi and North Dakota.

As a longtime opponent of such “uncommonly silly” laws, I offer the ACLU my unqualified support in this matter.

Monday, 9 May 2005

Settle this

Well, the state’s budget crisis was fun while it lasted… but apparently it’s now over after a $100 million settlement with the corpse of MCI over back taxes owed to the state. As always when large sums of money are being tossed around and lawyers are involved, Mike Moore manages to work his way into the plot:

Negotiations were stalled until two months ago, when MCI contacted former Attorney General Mike Moore. His law firm has represented MCI.

“They just called me up when they decided they wanted to get serious about negotiations,” Moore said.

Yeah, whatever. More on the fallout here.

Saturday, 30 April 2005

W in Canton Tuesday

The president is coming to the Nissan plant on Tuesday as part of his “reform social security” bandwagon tour. Anyone under the delusion that Mississippi is important in presidential politics should note that this is only Bush’s third visit to the state since being taking office in 2001.

Thursday, 14 April 2005

Mississippi county growth rates

As James Joyner notes, the Census Bureau today released statistics on the estimated growth rates of U.S. states and counties; the nitty-gritty is at the Census Bureau website, while the fastest-growing counties are the focus of attention for many in the media. Only one Mississippi county, DeSoto County (bordering Memphis), ranked in the top-100 nationwide in growth.

To flex my R skills, I put together a map of Mississippi counties and their growth rates, reproduced below the fold.

As you might have expected, among the fastest-growing counties were the suburban counties—DeSoto County near Memphis, Rankin County and Madison County near Jackson, and the Gulf Coast counties (Harrison, Hancock, and Jackson). Absolutely stunning is the turnaround in Tunica County, the only Delta county to post a positive growth rate; it’s growing at a 9% clip. Meanwhile, the hollowing-out of the Pine Belt, much of the hill country, and most of the Delta continues apace.

Wednesday, 13 April 2005

Killen out and about

Edgar Ray Killen, the man due to be tried for the 1964 murders of civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman this summer, apparently checked out of the hospital today after a month’s recovery from being smited while out on a hunting expedition near his home.

May his recovery continue with all deliberate speed so he can be tried, convicted, and rot away in Parchman as he undoubtedly deserves.

Thursday, 17 March 2005

M-Quality for bond before they were against it

The hooked-up “humanitarian” outfit called M-Quality has decided to withdraw its request for a cool half-mil in state loans after adverse media attention to its dubious business plan of exporting ”‘poultry, beef, lamb and pork skins’ to the Carribean as a humanitarian service.”

Wednesday, 16 March 2005

Mystery group gets half-mil state loan

I love Mississippi politics sometimes. Case in point: yesterday, the idiots we elected to our House of Representatives approved a bond package that features a $500,000 loan to some newly-incorporated outfit without even an office:

M-Quality Inc. is a “humanitarian group” and will perform work in the Caribbean, House Ways and Means Chairman Percy Watson, D-Hattiesburg, said about the 4-month-old company. Watson said that is all he was told about M-Quality by one of the firm’s incorporators, Dr. Roy Irons, president of the Mississippi Port Authority board of commissioners.

Corruption? Pshaw. Nothing to see here, move along.

Monday, 14 March 2005


Ten-digit dialling came to much of Mississippi overnight. No reports yet of panic, although those most prone to panic are probably out in sheds in Neshoba County—and may be unable to call anyone to express their panic.

Exactly why the PUC went with the overlay instead of just splitting 601 again is one of those unresolved mysteries that probably should be resolved.

Friday, 11 March 2005

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy

Edgar Ray Killen, accused of involvement in the 1964 “Philadelphia Three” murders, had both of his femurs broken when a tree fell on him yesterday. He’s apparently been in surgery all day at UMC. According to the AP:

The accident happened when one tree Killen had cut fell onto another one, [Killen’s attorney, Mitch] Moran said. As Killen cut the supporting tree, the top tree fell onto his head and drove him into the ground, causing the leg injuries. People nearby called for help, Moran said.

“It kind of drove him in the ground like a pile driver,” Moran said.

I believe this is pretty much what the Old Testament was talking about when people were “smited.”

The appearance of (tasty) corruption

An amusing story from the AP today: a town alderwoman in Ecru (a small town in north Mississippi near Oxford) was accused of attempting to bribe voters with baked goods. I’m familiar with the concept of women getting to your heart via your stomach, but this is the first time I’ve heard of one getting you to dimple your chads.

Monday, 7 March 2005

Redistricting editorial

The lead editorial in today’s Clarion-Ledger calls on Mississippi to adopt a non-partisan redistricting panel to set congressional and state legislative districts, noting the mess resulting from the last redistricting round in 2001. As noted before, a initiative to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot would be a long-shot, but perhaps the prospect of another fight over congressional districts will get the legislature to consider adopting a non-partisan districting proposal.

The Clarion-Ledger also carries an article today looking at the wrangling over judicial redistricting and the defeat of Ed Blackmon’s “single-shot” districting bill.

Friday, 4 March 2005

Round and round we go

Continuing my roundabout theme, today’s Clarion-Ledger reports on construction of a roundabout on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford as part of the North-South Parkway (a.k.a. Gertrude Ford Boulevard) project.

Friday, 25 February 2005

All Dean, all the time

(I figure if Eric Muller can do it, so can I…)

Howard Dean’s upcoming whirlwind tour of flyover country attracts some pub from the AP’s Emily Wagster Pettus, last seen here at Signifying Nothing looking for state legislators dumb enough to show at a Council of Conservative Citizens function (in the end, none were). Let’s play “spot the inconsistency in Howard’s message”:

Dean said today Democrats need to appeal to working-class whites and blacks in the South.

He will speak at a $75-a-ticket Democratic dinner at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Clarion Hotel in Jackson.

Way to broaden the party’s base, Howie!

I’m not unsympathetic to Dean’s arguments, although I have to say that on the issues the Mississippi Democrats are “right” on—things like civil liberties, abortion rights, and even (gasp) raising taxes to fix this state’s massively clusterf-cked budget*—their legislative caucus doesn’t have the cojones to stand up and be counted. Instead, they waste everyone’s time with idiotic Republican-lite shit like cracking down on sales of cold medicine, and slather on a good helping of smoke-filled room politics† just to make it more embarrassing. Not to mention that back in 2001 you couldn’t find a white Mississippi Democrat without a foot in the grave—William Winter doesn’t count, so you don’t get to trot him out—who lifted a finger to get rid of the Southern Cross on the flag.

In short: wanna sell me on the Mississippi Democratic Party? Start acting like Democrats who have gerrymandered yourselves into safe seats for life, instead of Republicans who have gerrymandered yourselves into safe seats for life, because in a contest between real Republicans and fake ones I’ll take the real ones (see Musgrove, Ronnie). I’ll even let you keep Bennie Thompson, just so long as you promise to never put me in his district.

This is my entry in today’s OTB Traffic Jam.

He's a Deaniac on the floor

Good ole Howard Dean is working his way up the “red state” ladder with a visit to Kansas before coming to Jackson on Tuesday.

Free advice for the Deanster: I know you wanna be the candidate for guys with Rebel flags and gun racks in their monster trucks, but Jackson’s a bit more of a pistol-in-the-waistband, low-rider and gold chains kinda town. But if you wanna get down with your Nascar-lovin’ homeys, there’s always the possibility of a side-trip to Brandon. Just don’t expect any of the Rankin County folks to pay $75 for the pleasure of your company.

Making a Killen

Just what we all need, a visit from the Klan:

PHILADELPHIA — When Edgar Ray Killen’s murder trial starts April 18 for the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers, the Ku Klux Klan is expected to be there.

J.J. Harper of Cordele, Ga., imperial wizard of the American White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, is requesting permission to demonstrate on the lawn of the Neshoba County Courthouse in support of Killen, an 80-year-old sawmill owner and part-time preacher who pleaded innocent to murder last month in the June 21, 1964, Klan killings of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman.

The Web site of the American White Knights shows a hanging post with three nooses holding the severed hands of African Americans. The post reads “Murder in Mississippi,” but the word “Murder” is crossed out in red with the word “Justice” written over it.

Harper said his organization is both Christian and nonviolent, but he says on his Web site: “Brother Killen is being charged with murdering a n——- and two Jews back in 1964. Personally, I’d ask, ‘What’s wrong with that?’ ”

With tactics like this, one has to wonder whether the Klan is trying to get Killen convicted. Not that he probably needs much help in that department, mind you.