Ray Killen is the one person now being charged with the 1964 murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Killen is one of ten still living who faced federal conspiracy to deny civil rights or other charges in the 1960s related to the murders of the three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Mississippi. The reputed Klansman is scheduled to go to trial on April 18.
Yesterday the 80 year old accused murderer suspect was doing some logging by himself.
The accident happened when a tree Killen had cut fell onto another one, Moran said. As Killen cut the supporting tree, the top tree fell onto his head and drove him into the ground. People nearby called for help.In the email I received about this incident last night, it was noted that this is oddly similar to when in 2001 Cecil Price died in an accident for which there were no witnesses soon after he began talking with Mississippi Attorney General Moore, who was considering bringing state charges against some of the men who had previously been charged with conspiracy. "If [Price] had been a defendant, he would have been a principal defendant. If he had been a witness, he would have been our best witness. Either way, his death is a tragic blow to our case," Moore said.
"It kind of drove him in the ground like a pile driver," Moran [Killen's attorney] said. (Source.)
An ambulance responded to a call at 148 Brooks McDill Road in the Conehatta community, said Newton County Sheriff Jackie Knight.
A tree fell on Killen and shattered the femur in both legs, knocking him unconscious, officials said.
An ambulance and fire department units were dispatched at 3:15 p.m. Killen was taken to Laird Hospital in Union and then to Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian and was still in “a lot of pain but was awake and lucid,” Knight said. . . .
Neshoba County District Attorney Mark Duncan said Thursday night from his home that a serious injury would impact the trial.
“We will just have to wait and see what the extent of his injuries are. We can be ready for trial at any time but obviously if it’s some kind of serious injury it may affect the scheduling of the trial,” he said. . . .
Jerry Edwards, Killen’s stepson, said that Killen was still in the emergency room at Rush at about 9 p.m., awaiting transfer to University Medical Center in Jackson.
Edwards said Killen was awake and alert.
“He was cutting trees and one had gotten stuck and he was cutting another tree to dislodge it. When it came loose it hit him in the head and knocked him to the ground,” Edwards said, breaking both legs. (Source.)
It is a noteworthy coincidence, FBI Director Robert Mueller was in Jackson, MS on his first visit to the state since he became head of the Bureau in 2001. The news reports do not provide clear explanation of Mueller's specific purposes for visiting Mississippi's FBI field office at this time.
The nine other men still living who have not been charged in the current case but who in the 1960s faced federal conspiracy to deny civil rights or other charges related to the murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner are:
Jimmy Arledge - presently living, Meridian, MSOne should certainly ask why none of these men have been charged, but that is not precisely the question. Here's Steve Schwerner, brother of Michael:
Sam Bowers - presently living, Central MS Correctional Facility
Olen Burrage - presently living, Philadelphia, MS
James Thomas "Pete" Harris - presently living, Meridian, MS
Tommy Horne - presently living, Meridian, MS
Billy Wayne Posey - presently living, Meridian, MS
Jimmy Snowden - presently living, Hickory, MS
Jimmy Lee Townsend - living
Richard Willis - presently living, Noxapater, MS
(List by courtesy of Arkansas Delta Peace & Justice Center.)
reopening the case would mean more if Mississippi looked deeper into the conspiracy around the civil rights workers back then.When he was asked previously to comment on the charges against Killen, Steve Shwerner also noted that
"I think there's no doubt that Killen was one of the organizers," Mr. Schwerner said. "The state of Mississippi had this Mississippi Sovereignty Commission which gave the [Ku Klux] Klan information on the whereabouts of my brother. I'd like to know what state legislators were involved. The FBI was close to many of the sheriffs in the South" (emphasis and link added).
Mr. Schwerner said the death of his brother made his family "icons" in the movement, but said that did nothing for the plight of blacks and the Civil Rights Movement. He said his father raised money for the groups his son was involved in, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Congress on Racial Equality.
The Civil Rights Movement has been watered down and packaged to the activities of Martin Luther King, Jr., and a handful of other leaders, Mr. Schwerner said. He said the actual movement was more broad-based and involved countless people whose names and faces we will never know.
in the six weeks that FBI agents searched for the bodies, they uncovered the remains of 10 to 12 African-Americans, many of whom had been active in civil rights, and none of whom received national media coverage (emphasis added).If Ray Killen lives to see trial and the current Attorney General, Jim Hood, delivers an unambiguous conviction for murder, that will be justice meted out in the smallest of measures. And you can bet there will be proclamations far and wide about the end of a terrible chapter in our history. Unfortunately, this isn't history. Mississippi Goddamn.
Follow the link and scroll down to the smaller print to read about the roles of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, the White Citizens Council,the Klan, Senator James O. Eastland, Congressman Prentiss Walker, and the House Committee on Unamerican Activities in the murders and in efforts to smear the reputations of the victims repair the bad image of the state.
A former Freedom Summer volunteer reports on his recent return trip to Mississippi.
More on the Council of Conservative Citizens and Mississippi politics.