Murders Around Mississippi

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Thursday, July 07, 2005


Not Over Until It's Over ...

In the LATimes online edition of July 6 appears an article written by Warren Paprocki, an engineer in Philadelphia, Mississippi and a member of the Killen trial jury.

Paprocki gives a reasonable explanation of why the manslaughter conviction was handed out to Edgar Ray Killen for the deaths of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, rather than a murder sentence.

"The jury was initially split between those who felt he was guilty and wanted to convict him of murder and those who felt he was guilty and were frustrated because the state did not present sufficient evidence to convict him under the jury instructions.

"Still, we followed the law and the court's instructions. We did not enter into some exercise of "jury nullification" — in which jurors vote according to their convictions rather than by the law as prescribed — either for or against Killen. As it was put to me by a fellow juror: "If your brother was on trial here, wouldn't you want him tried according to the law?"

"In order to convict Killen on murder charges, according to our jury instructions, it had to be proved that he had pulled the trigger or that others had been acting under his specific direction to kill the three men. What we heard in court was that Killen told some people in Meridian that three civil rights workers "needed their asses tore up" and then showed these people where to sit and wait for the three in Philadelphia. But it was not established that he gave them any instructions to perform a specific act.

"We focused on what was presented in the courtroom, not what we'd heard over the last 41 years, and not what we either assumed or wished to be true. Had we convicted that man of murder in the absence of proper evidence, knowing even at the very least that he was certainly guilty in any reasonable moral sense, we would have been acting in the same spirit as the Ku Klux Klan. We would have been setting the law aside and subverting the process to suit our own purposes. Killen received a fair verdict, based on the evidence."

The rest of the article is interesting as well ...

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