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Ex-KKK Leader Denied Prison Release

A judge Friday refused to release Edgar Ray Killen from prison while the former leader of the white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan appeals his conviction in the 1964 killing of three civil rights workers.

Killen, 81, was convicted of manslaughter in June 2005 in the slayings of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. He was sentenced to 60 years in jail.

Neshoba County Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon said in his ruling Friday that there was "no evidence presented" that would compel him to release Killen on bond while the appeal is pending.

Gordon had already freed Killen on appeal bond once, last August, because of his health. Killen, who was injured early last year when a tree fell on him, swore he could not use his right arm and said he was permanently confined to a wheelchair.

But within weeks, deputies said they saw him filling his truck with gas and driving around. On Sept. 9, Gordon revoked Killen's bond and sent him to prison, saying a "fraud had been committed on this court."

On Friday, Killen's wife, Betty Jo, testified that his health had improved during the time he was free last year, but since has gotten worse.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. George Russell, who treated Killen after he was injured and later when he developed an infection in his leg, described his condition as fair. Though he appeared for the defense, he testified Killen's chances of healing would not be any better if he were let out of prison.

Defense attorneys filed their appeal of Killen's conviction before the state Supreme Court last month, and the state recently asked for more time to respond. After the last brief is filed, the court has 270 days to rule.

Killen did not attend the hearing. His attorneys said he would have required an ambulance to bring him to the courthouse. The state Department of Corrections had said it would not provide one.

Killen was the only person to face state charges in the deaths, which were dramatized in the 1988 movie "Mississippi Burning."

He had been tried along with several other men in 1967 on federal charges of violating the victims' civil rights, but the jury deadlocked. Seven others were convicted, but none served more than six years in prison.

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