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Killen appeal before U.S. Supreme Court


The Associated Press



JACKSON -- The U.S. Supreme Court will consider Friday whether to hear an appeal from a former Ku Klux Klansman convicted in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers. 


Court officials say a decision could be announced shortly after the conference. 


Edgar Ray Killen says he was denied constitutional rights in his Mississippi trial. 


Killen made the same arguments to a federal judge in Mississippi in 2012 and before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans earlier this year. He lost in both courts. 


The Mississippi attorney general's office did not respond to Killen's petition. 


Killen was convicted of manslaughter in 2005, 41 years after the deaths of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney. He is serving 60 years in prison. 


On June 21, 1964, Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner disappeared in Neshoba County. The FBI found their bodies buried in an earthen dam Aug. 4, 1964, several miles from where they had been abducted by Ku Klux Klansmen. 


In 1967, seven men were convicted of federal charges of violating the civil rights of the men killed. None served more than six years in prison. The trial for Killen, a reputed Klan leader and part-time preacher, on the federal charges ended in a hung jury. 


The slayings shocked the nation, helped spur passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and were dramatized in the 1988 movie "Mississippi Burning." 


In court papers, Killen's attorneys said they want to pursue several issues including that Killen's defense team did a poor job. 


Killen also argues several constitutional rights violations, including the 41-year delay between the trio's deaths and his indictment, variances between the charges in the indictment and the jury's verdict, and prosecutors' failure to turn over evidence that could prove his innocence. 


U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate in Jackson, Miss., and the 5th Circuit both ruled Killen failed to make "a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right" that would persuade a court to grant him a new trial on those issues.




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