Supreme Court Rejects Appeal From Edgar Ray Killen In “Mississippi Burning” Case


On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Edgar Ray Killen, convicted of manslaughter in 2005 for the 1964 slayings of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman in what became known as the “Mississippi Burning” case.

Killen’s attorneys raised several arguments in the appeal including that his constitutional rights were violated by the decades long delay between the crime and his indictment. They also argued that his defense team did not do a good job of  representing the now 88-year-old Killen during his Neshoba County trial.

Monday’s decision means the justices are upholding the lower-court rulings that Killen’s constitutional rights were not violated.

In 1964, Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were ambushed and murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan in Neshoba County Mississippi. The young men were working on the “Freedom Summer” campaign, attempting to register African Americans to vote. In 1967, seven men were convicted of federal charges for violating the civil rights of their victims and none served more than six years in prison. The trial for Killen on federal charges resulted in a hung jury. He was found guilty of manslaughter on June 21, 2005, exactly 41 years to the day after the slayings. Killen was initially indicted on murder charges.

The deaths were dramatized in the 1988 film, Mississippi Burning.

(Photo by Marianne Todd/Getty Images)