Mother of civil rights worker recalls son before '64 killings

First full day of testimony fails to directly implicate ex-Klan leader as planner

June 18, 2005|By John Moreno Gonzales | John Moreno Gonzales,NEWSDAY

PHILADELPHIA, Miss. - With her memory fading but her grief focused, the mother of slain civil rights worker Andrew Goodman testified against Edgar Ray Killen yesterday, but neither she nor a collection of witnesses directly implicated the former Ku Klux Klan leader as the mastermind of the Mississippi Burning killings.

The first full day of testimony in the case against Killen, 80, included the recollections of a convict, retired Hoover-era FBI men, and a former police chief who said he was unwittingly roped into the Klan by Killen and his followers. The day also included a transcript of testimony from a 1967 federal trial in which Killen was acquitted.

But it was the frail Carolyn Goodman, 89, who was escorted from the stand by a surviving son who bore a striking resemblance to Andrew that clearly moved the courtroom.

"I remember the red soil. I remember that he was buried here," Goodman said of a trip from her native Manhattan to Mississippi in the wake of the 1964 killings. "It was all so horrible and terrible."

She read from a postcard Andrew sent on his arrival in the state. She wept when Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood showed her a picture of her son, 20, who was killed here with James Chaney, 21, and Michael Schwerner, 24.

"My son," she said of the picture that was then handed as evidence to jurors, two of whom also were crying. "I think this was taken right before he went to Mississippi."

Defense lawyers waived their right to cross-examine, but hammered away at other prosecution witnesses and objected to several passages prosecutors chose to read from the old transcript.

As observers grew weary of transcript readings and Killen seemed to nod off, Mike Winstead, 48, entered the courtroom in a yellow prison jumpsuit. He is serving 15 years for rape and sexual battery.

He said that when he was 10 he saw Killen visit his grandfather, Odel Rush.

"My grandfather asked if he had anything to do with those boys being killed," Winstead said. "He told my grandfather yes, and he was proud of it."

He said he recalled that Killen's admission happened on a Sunday because Killen had came to church that day around the time of his acquittal in 1967 and turned heads. "To me, it was just like Matt Dillon just walked in," he said, referring to the hero of the old television show Gunsmoke.

The closest prosecutors got to directly implicating Killen as the planner of the murders was in transcript testimony from now-deceased Klan member James Jordan. The testimony said Killen asked Jordan to help round up two or three Klansmen to intercept the rights workers, told the gang to buy rubber gloves to hide their participation, and explained that he had an alibi prearranged for himself at a funeral home.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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