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Jury Awards $38M To Black Church

Ku Klux Klansmen must pay $37.8 million for creating a climate of hate that led to a fire that destroyed a predominantly black church, a jury decided Friday.

The verdict went beyond the $25.2 million in damages sought by Macedonia Baptist Church for the June 1995 fire. The jury of nine blacks and three whites deliberated just 45 minutes.

The verdict includes $300,000 in actual damages and $37.5 million in punitive damages against KKK organizations in North Carolina and South Carolina.

A lawyer for the church, Morris Dees, had asked for $200,000 in actual damages and $25 million in punitive damages.

It marked another victory against the Klan for Dees, who heads the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has won other court judgments that have bankrupted Klan factions.

"That's the enemy sitting right over there," Dees had said in closing arguments, pointing at Horace King, South Carolina leader of the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. "That's the evil. If Horace King would look at his Bible, he would see what the wages of sin are."

The church contended the Christian Knights factions in the Carolinas, their leaders and four men now serving federal prison sentences for the arson conspired to burn the church.

"We're going to get every dollar they get for the next 50 years because they worry me," Dees said.