Sunday, 21 October, 2018

Edgar Ray Killen, convicted in 'Mississippi Burning' killings, dead at 92

Edgar Ray Killen is escorted int o the Neshoba County Courthouse before sentencing Edgar Ray Killen, convicted in 'Mississippi Burning' killings, dead at 92
Patty Aguilar | 13 January, 2018, 07:32

A Klansman found guilty for his role in the 1964 Freedom Summer killings of three civil rights workers has died in prison, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections tells NPR that Edgar Ray Killen died Thursday night at the age of 92. He was a Klansman who led a group of 15 men in the deaths of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Shwerner.

Killen would have turned 93 on January 17.

The cause death is pending an autopsy.

Their bodies were discovered 44 days later, buried in an earthen dam.

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.

Edgar Ray Killen, a part-time Baptist minister and the plot leader, was convicted of three counts of manslaughter almost 13 years ago. It was not until 2005 that Killen was charged with murder by a grand jury after new information related the case emerged.

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The slayings were among the most notorious of the civil rights era and were the subject of the 1988 movie "Mississippi Burning".

He was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

The jury convicted Killen of manslaughter, which some of the victims' families found insufficient.

A MS judge attempted to dismiss the charges against most of the defendants, but the Supreme Court later reversed the decision.

Even after his imprisonment, Killen was said to maintain segregationist views about racial inequality.

Killen did not testify at the trial, which was attended by Schwerner's widow and the mothers of Chaney and Goodman, and sat impassively in a wheelchair, breathing from an oxygen tank as the verdict was announced. He was retried 38 years later after the state reopened the murder investigations, and was convicted on June 21, 2005.

In June 2016, the state of MS finally officially closed the case.

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