Clarion-Ledger reporter Jerry Mitchell suggests that prosecutors may find forensic evidence that is sufficient to indict
the real other killers involved in the slayings of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. Color me somewhat skeptical, but if the evidence fits, you must convict.
Another oddity: the C-L piece mentions Sam Bowers as a possible suspect in the sidebar, and Scipio points out that Bowers and Killen may soon be bunkmates at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in lovely Rankin County, Bowers having been convicted for killing Vernon Dahmer a few years back. You’d think they’d mention Bowers was already behind bars for another racially-motivated killing, instead of referring to him as “Sam Bowers of Laurel.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.”
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.