Miss. Court Convicts Killen in Deaths of Civil Rights Workers

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A jury in Philadelphia, Miss., convicted 80-year-old Edgar Ray Killen on three counts of manslaughter in the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers.

Exactly 41 years ago Tuesday, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney disappeared on a remote backroad in rural Neshoba County. Six weeks later, an anonymous tip led the FBI to their bodies, buried in an earthern dam.

A later federal trial told the horrific story of that day — how the Klu Klux Klan lured the three young men into the county by burning a black church, pursued their car when they tried to flee and beat and shot them. In that trial, an all-white jury convicted seven Klansmen on civil rights charges, but deadlocked on Killen, because one juror said she could not convict a preacher.

At the time, the murders galvanized the civil rights movement and have since stood as a monument to the brutality and injustice of the era. Four decades later, the final act was staged in a quiet courtroom, where the wheelchair-bound defendant appeared to doze through closing statements.

Talk of the Nation examines what the verdict means legally, historically and socially, in Mississippi and across the country.


Manual Roig-Franzia, Washington Post reporter covering the Killen trial and Miami bureau chief

Dick Molpus, former Mississippi secretary of state

Richard Barrett, attorney and general counsel for the Nationalist Movement

Robert Moses, former field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)



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