Klansman convicted in 'Mississippi Burning' case dies in prison

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The man convicted for his involvement in the deaths of three civil rights workers in MS in 1964 has died in prison.

He was sentenced June 23, 2005, to three 20-year sentences. His conviction came 41 years to the day after Freedom Summer workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were ambushed and killed by Klansmen.

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

Edgar Ray Killen was 92 years old. Hours later, they were released from jail, chased down by carloads of Klansmen, and shot to death.

The cause and manner of death are pending an autopsy. However, no foul play is suspected, it said.

According to testimony in Killen's 2005 murder trial, he plotted the murders - right down to arranging for the bulldozer to bury the bodies - and later bragged how the civil rights workers had "been taken care of".

An all-white jury convicted seven of the men, including Bowers and a sheriff's deputy, and they were given sentences ranging from three to 10 years.

Philadelphia Mississippi. Killen then 80 was convicted on June 21 in the 1964 murders of civil-rights activists Andrew Goodman James Chaney and Michael Schwerner
Klansman Edgar Killen, convicted in murders of three Mississippi civil rights workers, dies in prison

Prosecutors said as a "kleagle" or KKK organiser, he had assembled the murderous mob and instructed them how to dispose of the bodies, but was not at the murder scene itself.

Killen, a part-time Baptist preacher and KKK kleagle (organizer), faced federal charges in 1967, but the trial ended in a hung jury after a hold-out juror said she couldn't convict a preacher.

"Those boys were Communists who went to a Communist training school", Killen said of the victims in a 1998 interview with the New York Times.

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

Almost 40 years later, he was retried after the state reopened the murder investigations.

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

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Yet the alternative - that this spectacle was not planned but just as rushed and arbitrary as it seemed - is hardly better. The president will have to end his selective use of decision making if he plans to win the election in 2020.