Edgar Ray Killen Dies; Klansman Behind Civil Rights Workers' Murders In 1964

Edgar Ray Killen Dies; Klansman Behind Civil Rights Workers' Murders In 1964

A man convicted in the deaths of three civil rights workers in MS died in prison.

According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Killen was 92 years old. He was sentenced June 23, 2005 to three consecutive 20-year sentences.

He was sentenced to serve 60 years for the June 21, 1964 deaths of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Neshoba County.

The 1988 film "Mississippi Burning" is loosely based on the violent slayings and the following investigation that unfolded amid the peak of the Civil Rights movement.

Edgar Ray Killen stands in a court room where he pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers at the Neshoba County Courthouse. Hours later, they were released from jail, chased down by carloads of Klansmen, and shot to death.

David Goodman, Andrew's brother, said Friday he was informed of Killen's death on Thursday by state corrections officers.

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

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A MS judge attempted to dismiss the charges against most of the defendants, but the Supreme Court later reversed the decision. No foul play was suspected.

In 1967, prosecutors convicted eight defendants for violating the federal criminal civil rights conspiracy statute, namely the victims' right to live.

The state of MS declined to pursue murder charges in the case but in 1967, 18 men, including Killen, local Klan leader Sam Bowers and the county sheriff, were tried on federal charges of violating the victims' civil rights.

Edgar Ray Killen was serving a 60-year prison sentence for spearheading the 1964 slayings of the men who were in the southern USA state as part of a drive to register black voters.

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

The case galvanized public opinion against segregation and helped lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

They include the Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing in 1963 that killed four black girls and the assassination of Medgar Evers, a NAACP leader, in Jackson Mississippi, in 1963 by a member of the White Citizens' Council, who was convicted more than 30 years later based on new evidence.

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