Saturday, 20 January, 2018

Man convicted in slayings of 3 civil rights workers dies in prison

Edgar Ray Killen shown here in 2005 was convicted in the 1964 murders of civil rights activists Andrew Goodman James Chaney and Michael Schwerner Edgar Ray Killen shown here in 2005 was convicted in the 1964 murders of civil rights activists Andrew Goodman James Chaney and Michael Schwerner
Melinda Barton | 13 January, 2018, 08:19

Edgar Ray Killen, a Ku Klux Klansman who was convicted of helping plan the murders of 3 civil rights activists in 1964, has died in prison. In 2005, he was convicted of manslaughter for the 1964 deaths of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman outside Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Killen was accused of orchestrating the shocking murders of the three political workers - two white men and one black man.

His first trial in 1967 ended in mistrial, but Killen was retried almost 40 years later after state authorities reopened the murder investigations, according to the Clarion Ledger.

Their bodies were discovered by authorities 44 days later, buried in a red clay dam in rural Neshoba County. His conviction and sentence of three consecutive 20-year sentences was upheld by the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2007.

The events of that night in Mississippi inspired the critically acclaimed 1988 film "Mississippi Burning", starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe.

Killen, a part-time preacher, and lumber mill operator was 80 years old when a Neshoba County jury found him guilty of three counts of manslaughter in 2005.

The case galvanised public opinion against segregation and helped lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. "However, no foul play is suspected", the Mississippi Department of Corrections said in a statement. "Now he's dead", added Mitchell.

The cause and manner of death are pending an autopsy.