View Full Version : Judge: Killen trial will proceed

05-26-2005, 04:25 AM
The Neshoba Democrat
Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Judge: Killen trial will proceed

Managing Editor

The June 13 murder trial of reputed Ku Klux Klansman Edgar Ray Killen will proceed as scheduled, a circuit court judge ruled on Monday.

Killen, 80, is charged with the 1964 murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon denied a defense motion to dismiss the murder charges on the basis of selective prosecution in violation of his constitutional rights.

“We will definitely have a trial on June 13,” Gordon said, after conferring with attorneys from both sides in his chambers.

In a separate motion, Killen’s attorneys had subpoenaed Attorney General Jim Hood asking that he produce documents at the hearing which the defense contends would bolster its claim.

Gordon sustained a motion by the state seeking to quash the subpoena, citing time constraints.

The defense called Lee Martin, of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division, to the stand and questioned him extensively about the process his office uses in determining which cases are prosecuted in an attempt to prove their belief that Killen was singled out for prosecution.

Martin said his division looks at evidence and talks with law enforcement, witnesses and others involved before making a determination on whether or not to prosecute a case. At present his division has an estimated 100 crimes under investigation.

Martin told the court that the state Attorney General’s office became involved in the 1964 civil rights case after the U. S. Attorney’s Office, Southern Division, provided information about a witness who could provide assistance in the case.

The witness, who is now deceased, was under indictment by the federal government in a separate case that had no connection to the 1964 murders, Martin testified.

He had personal knowledge of the case and provided specific information to the Attorney General’s office which conducted its own independent investigation into the 1964 murders, Martin said.

That investigation, he said, centered around eight of the original defendants in a 1967 civil rights case who are still alive and any other individuals who may have been connected.

Martin said neither Killen nor anyone else was targeted for prosecution. All of the evidence was presented to a grand jury which returned only one indictment, he said.

After the hearing, Defense Attorney Mitch Moran said Killen was looking forward to the trial.

“The man wants to be exonerated,” he said.

Killen is still recovering from two broken legs suffered in a logging accident in March.

When asked if Killen felt like he was ready for the trial, Moran said: “He’s as ready as an 80-year-old man with two broken legs can be.

“He’s been having some discomforts for the last three days. I guess the major problem he has is that he can’t stay in any one given position for any extended period of time,” Moran said. “He can sit up for a while and then he has to lay down for a while which makes it hard for him to sit in a chair for an extended period of time.”

Moran said he hoped the court would accommodate his client with recesses and breaks during the trial.

District Attorney Mark Duncan said the state was ready “unless something unexpected happens, I expect the trial go forward as planned.”

When asked about the defense claim that Killen was singled out for prosecution, Duncan told reporters that the grand jury heard all of the evidence in the case and chose to indict only Killen.

“There are eight people surviving today from the original federal trial back in 1967. We presented all the evidence that we collected in our investigation to the grand jury and allowed them to make up their minds on who to indict and who not to indict,” Duncan said.

“They could have indicted all eight of those people, or any combination of those people plus others who may not have been indicted back in the 60s. After hearing all the evidence in the case, they chose to indict Mr. Killen and only Mr. Killen. That was the grand jury’s decision.”

Duncan said that despite Killen’s medical condition he felt that 12 jurors and four alternates could be found who would make a determination based on the evidence.

“Everybody is human and you have a natural sympathy for somebody in that condition but this jury, I’m sure, will be cautioned that their job is to decide the case on the evidence that they hear and not out of sympathy or prejudice or anything like that. I feel confident that we’ll have a jury that will be able to do that,” he said.

Judge Gordon ordered that 150 additional juror summonses be delivered to the sheriff by 9 a.m. Tuesday for his office to serve. This is in addition to the 250 summonses that were mailed earlier to prospective jurors.

Gordon said the additional summonses were necessary because many of those already served were entitled to be excused under the law.