Killen jury ends day without a verdict

Ex-Klan member, now 80, is on trial in Mississippi in 1964 killings of 3 men

June 21, 2005|By John Moreno Gonzales | John Moreno Gonzales,NEWSDAY

PHILADELPHIA, Miss. - The jury in the murder trial of Edgar Ray Killen told the judge yesterday it was deadlocked after less than three hours, setting the stage for further deliberations on the 41st anniversary of the killings of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman.

The jury of nine whites and three blacks deliberated until early evening before announcing to Judge Marcus Gordon that it was deadlocked 6-6 over the murder and manslaughter charges that the 80-year-old former Ku Klux Klan leader and Baptist preacher faces.

Gordon excused the jury until this morning.

41st anniversary

The three went missing June 21, 1964, in a Klan kidnapping, execution and cover-up that has been a sore on the image of this state since.

The even split on the jury was an agonizing revelation for relatives of the victims, who have been testifying in and observing the trial since it began last week in a heavily guarded Neshoba County Courthouse.

"There is an underlying current of fear," Ben Chaney, the brother of James, said in his explanation of the divided jury. "Forty-one years is not a long time."

The day began with defense rebuttal witnesses and further cross-examination of a critical prosecution witness who defense lawyers said made conflicting statements about Killen's alleged central role in the crimes.

At the close of testimony, jurors heard competing words from Killen's two defense lawyers, and a prosecution team that includes a respected local prosecutor and the state's highest law enforcement officer.

"What you do in life echoes in eternity," local prosecutor Mark Duncan said to jurors, quoting Southern icon and confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee just before he sent his army into the battle of Gettysburg. "You can either change the history that Edgar Ray Killen and the Klan wrote for us, or you can confirm it."

`Skeletons of our past'

His co-prosecutor, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, earlier told the panel as he handed them portraits of the victims: "I submit to you that the skeletons of our past have names and faces, Mickey Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman."

Killen's lawyers, however, seized on the emotional and historical appeals by the state's lawyers and challenged the jury to find prosecution testimony that directly implicated Killen in masterminding the crimes.

Attorney Mitch Moran said during his closing arguments that not a single prosecution witness had testified that Killen directly told his fellow Klansmen to either beat or kill the civil rights workers.

All that witnesses such as state convict Mike Winstead and one-time Klansman and Meridan police officer Mike Hatcher did was testify that Killen knew how the crimes horrifically played out, not that he planned them.

"You can't convict an 80-year-old man on a 40-year-old crime with a convict and so-called police officer," Moran said.

James McIntyre, Killen co-defense attorney, had told the jury, of his client: "He has a big mouth, and he was talking all the time, that's all he's guilty of."

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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