Edgar Ray Killen

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Banned
Edgar Ray Killen




A.K.A.: "Preacher"

Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Former Ku Klux Klan organizer
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: June 21, 1964
Date of arrest: January 6, 2005 (41 years later)
Date of birth: January 17, 1925
Victims profile: Two Jewish New Yorkers, Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24, and one black Mississippian, James Chaney, 21 (civil rights activists)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Philadelphia, Mississippi, USA
Status: Sentenced to 60 years in prison on June 23, 2005



Edgar Ray "Preacher" Killen (born 17 January 1925) is an American former Ku Klux Klan organizer who conspired to kill three civil rights activists in 1964.

He was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter on June 21, 2005, the forty-first anniversary of the crime. He appealed the verdict, but his punishment of 3 times 20 years in prison was upheld on January 12, 2007 by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Biography

Killen was a sawmill operator and part-time Baptist minister and also a kleagle, or klavern recruiter and organizer, for the Neshoba and Lauderdale County chapters of the Ku Klux Klan.

Murders

During the "Freedom Summer" of 1964, two Jewish New Yorkers, Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24, and one black Mississippian, James Chaney, 21, were murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

The Ku Klux Klan organizer Edgar Ray Killen, along with Cecil Price (then deputy sheriff of Neshoba County), had gathered a group of men who hunted down and killed the three civil rights workers. The Mississippi Civil Rights Workers Murders galvanized the nation and helped bring about the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The killings are the basis of the 1988 movie Mississippi Burning.

At the time of the killings, the state of Mississippi made little effort to prosecute the perpetrators. The FBI, under the pro-civil-rights President Lyndon Johnson and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, directed a vigorous investigation.

Federal prosecutor John Doar, circumventing dismissals by federal judges, opened a grand jury in December 1964. Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall appeared before the Supreme Court to defend the federal government's authority in bringing charges in November 1965. Eighteen men, including Killen, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to violate the victims' civil rights in U.S. v. Cecil Price et. al..

The 1967 trial in federal court before an all-white jury convicted seven conspirators and acquitted eight others. For three men, including Killen, the trial ended in a hung jury, after the jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction. The lone holdout saying she could never convict a preacher. The prosecution decided not to retry Killen and he was set free. None of the men found guilty served more than six years.

Journalist Jerry Mitchell, an award-winning investigative reporter for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, had written extensively about the case for many years. Mitchell had already earned fame for helping secure convictions in several other high profile Civil Rights Era murder cases, including the assassination of Medgar Evers, the Birmingham Church Bombing, and the murder of Vernon Dahmer.

For the murders of the civil rights workers, Mitchell developed new evidence, found new witnesses, and pressured the State to take action. Working with Mitchell were high school teacher Barry Bradford and a team of three students from Illinois.

They got Killen to do his only taped interview (to that point) talking about the crime. That tape showed Killen clinging to his segregationist views and clearly competent and aware. The students uncovered potential new witnesses, created a web site, lobbied Congress, and focused national media attention on the reopening of the case. Ben Chaney called them "Superhero Girls".

Re-emergence of the case

In 2004, Killen declared that he would attend a petition-drive in his behalf, scheduled by the Nationalist Movement at the 2004 Mississippi Annual State Fair in Jackson, Mississippi. It opposed Communism, integration and non-speedy trials. The Hinds County sheriff, Malcolm MacMillan, conducted a counter-petition, calling for re-opening of the case against Killen.

Killen was arrested for three counts of murder on January 6, 2005. He was freed on bond shortly thereafter. His case drew comparisons to that of Byron De La Beckwith, who was charged with the killing of Medgar Evers in 1963 and arrested in 1994.

Killen's trial was scheduled for April 18, 2005. It was deferred, however, after the 80-year-old Killen broke both of his legs chopping down lumber in his rural home in Neshoba County. The trial began on June 13, 2005, with Killen attending in a wheelchair. He was found guilty on June 21, 2005 of manslaughter, 41 years to the day after his crime.

The jury of nine whites and three blacks rejected the charges of murder but found him guilty of recruiting the mob that carried out the killings. He was sentenced on June 23, 2005 by Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon to the maximum sentence of 60 years in prison, 20 years for each manslaughter, to be served consecutively. He will be eligible for parole after serving at least 20 years, although it is almost impossible he will live this long given his age and health.

At the sentencing, Judge Gordon stated that each life lost was valuable and strongly asserted that the law made no distinction of age for the crime and that the maximum sentence should be imposed regardless of Killen's age.

On August 12, Killen was released from prison on a $600,000 appeal bond. He claimed that he could no longer use his right hand (he had to use his left hand to place his right one on the Bible during his swearing-in) and was permanently confined to his wheelchair. Gordon said he was convinced by testimony that Killen was neither a flight risk nor danger to the community. However, on September 3, the Clarion-Ledger reported that a deputy sheriff saw Killen walking around "with no problem".

At a hearing on September 9, several other deputies testified to seeing Killen driving in various locations. One deputy said that Killen shook hands with him using his right hand. Gordon revoked the bond and ordered Killen back to prison, saying that he believed Killen committed a fraud upon the court.

On March 29, 2006, Killen was moved from his prison cell to a Jackson, Mississippi hospital to treat complications from the severe leg injury he sustained in a logging accident in 2005.

Former Klansman found guilty of manslaughter

Conviction coincides with 41st anniversary of civil rights killings

CNN.com - Wednesday, June 22, 2005

PHILADELPHIA, Mississippi (CNN) -- Forty-one years to the day after three civil rights workers were ambushed and killed by a Ku Klux Klan mob, a jury found former Klansman Edgar Ray Killen guilty on three counts of manslaughter Tuesday.

The 1964 "Freedom Summer" killings of James Chaney, 21, Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24, helped galvanize the civil rights movement that led to major reforms in access to voting, education and public accommodations.

Circuit Court Judge Marcus Gordon set Killen's sentencing for Thursday at 10 a.m. (11 a.m. ET). He faces a prison sentence ranging from one to 20 years per count, said Mississippi Attorney General James Hood.

"There's justice for all in Mississippi," Hood said.

The jury of nine whites and three blacks reached the decision after several hours of deliberations. The conviction was on a lesser charge; prosecutors had charged Killen with murder.

Killen, 80, displayed no emotion as the verdicts were read.

But as the wheelchair-bound man was being escorted from the courthouse under heavy guard, he took swipes at reporters' microphones and cameras. One of the reporters was black, as was a cameraman.

'This is not over with'

Chaney's brother, Ben, said that despite the verdicts, "This is not over with. ... But we'll take what we got."

From her home in New York's Manhattan, Goodman's mother, Carolyn Goodman, 89, said she had waited a long time for a guilty verdict, but it was "nothing to be happy about."

"I'm just overcome. ... But you know I had a feeling it was going to happen," she said.

"I just hope he's off the streets," she said of Killen. "I don't want anything more terrible than that. I don't want anything violent. I'm against capital punishment."

Schwerner's widow, Rita Bender, said, "I would hope that this case is just the beginning and not the end."

She acknowledged the fact that the case likely became a high-profile one because Schwerner and Goodman were white New Yorkers who came to the South the summer of 1964 with hundreds of other volunteers to register black voters. Chaney was a black man from Mississippi.

Neshoba County District Attorney Mark Duncan said the verdict means his county will no longer "be known by a Hollywood movie anymore," referring to the 1988 film "Mississippi Burning" based on the killings.

"Today we've shown the rest of the world the true character of the people of Neshoba County," Duncan told reporters.

Prosecutor: 'Venom' still exists

In his closing argument Monday, Duncan implored the 12 jurors to "hold the defendant responsible for what he did."

"What you do today when you go into that jury room is going to echo throughout the history of Neshoba County from now on," Duncan said. "You can either change the history that Edgar Ray Killen and the Klan wrote for us, or you can confirm it."

"Find him guilty of murder," Duncan said. "That's the verdict that the state of Mississippi asks you to return."

"Those three boys and their families were robbed of all the things that Edgar Ray Killen has been able to enjoy for the last 41 years. And the cause of it, the main instigator of it was Edgar Ray Killen and no one else," the district attorney said.

"He was the man who led these murders. He is the man who set the plan in motion. He is the man who recruited the people to carry out the plan. He is the man who directed those men into what to do."

The balding, bespectacled Killen -- a former part-time Baptist preacher -- appeared to be sleeping during much of the closing remarks.

Hood, who led the case, said he wished "some of my predecessors would have done their duty" by bringing charges against Killen. Noting that it was "not good politics to bring this case up," he said, politics and time should not get in the way of justice.

Hood said testimony showed Killen possessed "venom" at the time of the killings and still does.

"That venom is sitting right there. It is seething behind those glasses," he said. "That coward wants to hide behind this thing and put pressure on you."

Burden of proof

Defense attorney Mitch Moran said "nothing in the record shows Edgar was there" during the ambush and killings.

"The '60s was a terrible era in a lot of ways. We do not need to relive them, and we do need to go forward," Moran said. "What I'm asking you to do is to look at this evidence and hold the state to the burden of proving this case beyond a reasonable doubt."

On June 21, 1964, Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were on their way to investigate the burning of a black church when they were briefly taken into custody for speeding.

According to testimony, the Klan had burned the church to lure the three men back to Neshoba County.

After they were released from the county jail in Philadelphia, a KKK mob tailed their car, forced if off the road, and shot them to death. Their bodies were found 44 days later buried in an earthen dam -- in a trench dug in anticipation of the killings, according to testimony.

In a 1967 federal trial, an all-white jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting Killen. The lone holdout said she could not vote to convict a preacher.

Seven other men were convicted of conspiring to violate the civil rights of the victims, namely their right to live. None served more than six years in prison. At the time, no federal murder statutes existed, and the state never brought charges.



Civil Rights Murder Case



In 1964, the year three civil rights workers were murdered in Neshoba County, Edgar Ray Killen was a sawmill operator and a part-time Baptist preacher known for stirring words at funerals and weddings. According to witnesses, Killen was also a recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan and had special hatred for Michael "Mickey" Schwerner, a New York native who had come to Mississippi to register voters. Killen has recently said that he never belonged to the Klan and didn't even know Schwerner's name.



Andrew "Andy" Goodman, a 20-year-old student at Queens College in New York, was only in Mississippi for one day before he was killed. The New Yorker was among nearly 1,000 college students, mostly white, who signed up for "Freedom Summer," a program by civil rights groups to register Mississippi blacks to vote. After a training program in Ohio, he drove with Michael Schwerner and James Chaney to Meridian, arriving the evening of June 20, 1964. His first assignment was to accompany his coworkers as they investigated a church burning in Neshoba County. He never returned.



Before coming to Mississippi, Michael Schwerner, 24, was a social worker in Manhattan. Schwerner, who was from a Jewish family, told people he was an atheist. He and his wife Rita took positions with the Congress of Racial Equality, organizing a boycott of a store that refused to hire blacks and setting up a community center. Schwerner immediately earned the enmity of the Ku Klux Klan, which gave him the code name "Goatee." According to a witness, Schwerner tried to reason with the Klansmen who killed him, saying to a man aiming a gun at him, "Sir, I know just how you feel."



James Chaney was 21 years old and a new father on June 21, 1964. The only native Mississippian of the victims, Chaney grew up in Meridian, the eldest of five children. He began working for the Congress of Racial Equality as a volunteer and later the Schwerners pushed for him to be hired as a paid staff member. He was behind the wheel of the CORE station wagon when deputies stopped the civil rights workers. According to witnesses, he was the last to be shot.




FBI agents took the lead in investigating the disappearances because local law enforcement agents were unwilling to do so and, in some cases, were under suspicion. Federal agents questioned Klan members and helped organized searches of swamps and fields near Philadelphia. The FBI men paid Klan informants thousands for their cooperation and the accounts of those informants were the heart of the federal civil rights case brought against 18 men in 1967.



Federal and state investigators as well as Navy recruits combed snake-infested swamps for signs of the missing civil rights workers. Forty-four days after they vanished, a tip led to the discovery of their bodies at the base of an earthen dam near Philadelphia, Mississippi.



The blue station wagon driven by the trio was recovered in a swampy area north of Philadelphia two days after they vanished. The vehicle, owned by the Congress of Racial Equality, had been set afire.



In 1967, 18 men, including Killen (at left) and Neshoba County Deputy Cecil Price, stood trial on federal civil rights charges. Price was convicted, but Killen walked free after the jury deadlocked 11 to 1 in favor of conviction. The holdout juror said she could not convict a preacher.



In the wake of the murders, Philadelphia, Mississippi became synonymous with racial violence. Federal prosecutors pursued civil rights charges in Meridian, but local prosecutors did not bring murder charges. A year after the murders, some 60 marchers marked the anniversary by marching to the site of the church burning that brought Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner to Neshoba County.



In 1999, state investigators reopened the murder case after a Klansmen serving a life sentence for another racial murder gave an interview to a state archivist in which he implicated Killen as the ringleader. A grand jury indicted 79-year-old Killen, seen here in his booking photo, in January 2005.



Killen, still working as a preacher and sawmill operator, denied he was involved in the slayings or ever belonged to the Klan, but expressed sympathy for those that carried out the murders. "I'm not going to say they did anything wrong,"
he said.



Killen, seen here after his release from Neshoba County Detention Center on $250,000 bail, insists he did not even know of Michael Schwerner's existence before the disappearance of the civil rights workers made headlines.



A lawyer for Killen says his defense will consist of character witnesses, including fellow Baptist ministers. The defense also plans to attack testimony from Klan informants, saying the FBI bought their accounts with thousands of dollars in government payouts.




Killen's trial opened one week before the 41st anniversary of the deaths. Lawyers were only permitted 15 minutes to present opening statements to the panel of 13 whites and four blacks. Defense lawyer Mitchell Moran told the jury his client was a low-level member with no control over the Klan's activities. State Attorney General Jim Hood acknowledged that Killen did not shoot the men himself, but said Killen's role as organizer made him just as guilty as those who fired the guns.



Circuit Court Judge Marcus Gordon halted the trial on its first day after the 80-year-old defendant was rushed to the hospital with tightness in his chest and high blood pressure. The recess came moments after the prosecution's first witness, the widow of Michael Schwerner, had finished her emotional testimony.



The ailing defendant listened as the jury announced they were split 6-6 after less than three hours of deliberations. They did not specify what they were divided on, but said they did not think further deliberations would make a difference. Even so, Judge Gordon dismissed them for the evening on June 20, 2005.



The jury returned to deliberate on the 41st anniversary of the deaths and convicted Killen of three counts of manslaughter.
 

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Banned

Killen's wife, Betty, hugged him after the verdict was announced. She missed a chemotherapy appointment for breast cancer treatment to attend the proceedings. Killen's sentencing was s
et for June 23.



As Killen was placed into custody, he pushed away microphones from reporters asking him for comment.




Edgar Ray Killen



Edgar Ray Killen



Edgar Ray Killen




Edgar Ray Killen is escorted by Neshoba County sheriff's deputies to his arraignment where he pleaded
not guilty to three counts of murder in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers at the
Neshoba County Courthouse January 7, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.





Edgar Ray Killen




Edgar Ray Killen (L) stands in a court room where he pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder
in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers at the Neshoba County Courthouse
January 7, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.





Edgar Ray Killen stands in a court room where he pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder
in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers at the Neshoba County Courthouse
January 7, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.





Edgar Ray Killen stands in a court room where he pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder in the 1964
slayings of three civil rights workers at the Neshoba County Courthouse January 7, 2005
in Philadelphia, Mississippi.





Edgar Ray Killen (L) stands in a court room where he pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder
in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers at the Neshoba County Courthouse
January 7, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.




Edgar Ray Killen



Edgar Ray Killen



Edgar Ray Killen
 

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Banned


Edgar Ray Killen (C), 79-years-old, is escorted by police inside the Neshoba County Courthouse
January 12, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.





Edgar Ray Killen (R), 79-years-old, is escorted by police to the Neshoba County Courthouse
January 12, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.











Edgar Ray Killen (C), 79-years-old, is escorted by police from the Neshoba County Courthouse
January 12, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.



 

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Banned

Edgar Ray Killen




Edgar Ray Killen, 80, waits in the courtroom as he is convicted of manslaughter
June 21, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.





Edgar Ray Killen gestures while waiting in the courtroom for a verdict in his murder trial
June 20, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.





Edgar Ray Killen confers with his wife Betty Jo Killen, as they wait for a jury decision in his murder trial
June 20, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.




Edgar Ray Killen




Former Ku Klux Klansman Edgar Ray Killen smiles and waves at an unknown family member
during a recess in the fourth day of his murder trial June 18, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.





Former Ku Klux Klansman Edgar Ray Killen smiles during a recess in the fourth day of his murder trial
June 18, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.




Edgar Ray Killen



Edgar Ray Killen




Edgar Ray Killen is escorted from the Neshoba County Courthouse by his stepson, Jerry Edwards,
after the prosecution rested in his trial June 18, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.





Edgar Ray Killen is escorted from the Neshoba County Courthouse by his stepson, Jerry Edwards,
after opening arguments in his trial on June 15, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.




Edgar Ray Killen




Edgar Ray Killen enters the Neshoba County Courthouse June 18, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.




Edgar Ray Killen



Edgar Ray Killen




Edgar Ray Killen is escorted from the Neshoba County Courthouse after the prosecution rested
in his murder trial June 18, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.





Edgar Ray Killen, 80, leaves the Neshoba County Courthouse after being found guilty on three counts
of manslaughter in the 1964 slayings of civl rights workers Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner
and James Chaney on June 21, 2005 in Philadelphia, Misissippi. Although the jury could have
found Killen guilty of murder in the case, the deadlocked jury came back with the lesser
charge of manslaughter, on the 41st anniversary of the deaths.




Edgar Ray Killen




Edgar Ray Killen, 80, leaves the Neshoba County Courthouse by his stepson, Jerry Edwards, after the jury in
his murder trial recessed for the evening on a six to six deadlock on June 20, 2005, in Philadelphia, Mississippi.





Edgar Ray Killen leaves the Neshoba County Courthouse after sentencing June 23, 2005 in Philadelphia,
Mississippi. Killen , 80, was convicted on June 21 in the 1964 murders of civil rights activists Andrew
Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner. He received three consecutive
20 year sentences for the murders.
 

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Banned




Edgar Ray Killen is escorted int o the Neshoba County Courthouse before sentencing June 23, 2005
in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Killen , 80, was convicted on June 21, 2005 in the 1964 murders
of civil rights activists Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.
He received three consecutive 20 year sentences for the murders.




Edgar Ray Killen



Edgar Ray Killen



Edgar Ray Killen
 
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