Klansman convicted in 'Mississippi Burning' case dies in prison

Klansman convicted in 'Mississippi Burning' case dies in prison

Edgar Ray Killen, who was convicted for involvement in the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, died at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, the Associated Press reported.

He was sentenced to serve 60 years for the June 21, 1964 deaths of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Neshoba County.

Edgar Ray Killen stands in a court room where he pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers at the Neshoba County Courthouse.

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After their release from the county jail in Philadelphia, a Ku Klux Klan mob tailed their vehicle, forced it off the road and shot them to death.

The cause death is pending an autopsy.

Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman were shot on a rural road near Killen's home and then buried 15 feet deep in an earthen dam. But reporter Jerry Mitchell of the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger revived interest in the case in 1998 with stories about taped interviews at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in which Bowers said he was "quite delighted to be convicted and have the main instigator of the entire affair walk out of the courtroom a free man". However, no foul play is suspected, MDOC said.

After federal intervention, 18 men were trialled in 1967 on civil rights violation charges.

Killen, a former Baptist preacher, was accused of orchestrating the killings, but his trial ended in a hung jury after a juror said she could not convict a preacher.

The three men were investigating the burning of a black church in the area that summer when their station wagon stopped by local police on the night of June 21, according to a detailed account of the incident on PBS. The state of MS didn't press charges at the time.

"It has been a thorough and complete investigation", Hood said.

The case galvanized public opinion against segregation and helped lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

Over the last 40 years, authorities have convicted people of notorious murders during the civil rights era.

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