Ex-Klansman guilty in '64 slayings

Edgar Ray Killen is taken from the Neshoba County Court House in Philadelphia, Miss., by Sheriff's deputies Tuesday, June 21, 2005, after a jury convicted the 80-year-old former Ku Klux Klansman of manslaughter in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers. AP Photo

An 80-year-old former Ku Klux Klansman was convicted of manslaughter Tuesday in the slayings of three civil rights workers exactly 41 years ago in a notorious case that inspired the movie "Mississippi Burning."

The jury of nine whites and three blacks reached the verdict on their second day of deliberations, rejecting murder charges against Edgar Ray Killen but also turning aside defense claims that he wasn't involved at all.

"Even though it's not murder, manslaughter is a serious felony crime," said CBS News Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen. "It almost certainly will involve significant prison time which means the conviction is tantamount to a death sentence for the frail Killen."

Killen showed no emotion as the verdicts were read. He was comforted by his wife as he sat in his wheelchair, wearing an oxygen tube. He was immediately taken into custody by the sheriff, and Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon said he would set a sentencing date later in the day.

CBS News Correspondent Cami McCormick reports that the judge told the jury he knew it had been a trying several days for them. After the verdicts were announced, the jury was loaded into two vans and driven away from the courthouse.

Civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were ambushed on June 21, 1964. Their bodies were found 44 days later buried in an earthen dam. They had been beaten and shot.

Cheers could be heard outside the two-story, red brick courthouse after the verdicts were announced. Passers-by patted Chaney's brother, Ben, on the back and one woman slowed her vehicle and yelled, "Hey, Mr. Chaney, all right!"

Later, Ben Chaney thanked the prosecutors but said that for the community, "I really feel that there is more to be done." He said there were still no black businesses downtown.

Schwerner's widow, Rita Schwerner Bender, praised the verdict, calling it "a day of great importance to all of us." But she said others also should be held responsible for the slayings.
  • Scott Benjamin

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