The Mississippi Supreme Court Thursday upheld the manslaughter convictions of former Ku Klux Klan organizer Edgar Ray Killen. Killen, now 82, was sentenced to 60 years in prison in 2005, receiving one 20-year sentence for each of the 3 young men who were killed in 1964 after assisting African-Americans in registering to vote. Killen appealed his sentence on a number of grounds, including prejudice in the 41-year pre-indictment delay resulting in, among other things, faded witness memories. The court rejected any contention of actual prejudice from the delay, citing the fact that Killen's own witnesses had testified live about the events of 1964, and none claimed problems with faded memories.
The court further rejected Killen's argument that the delay was intentionally used to gain a tactical advantage. Killen claimed in his brief that the political climate in Mississippi in the 1960s would have made a conviction back then far less likely. The court expressed surprise that Killen would even attempt to claim present prejudice stemming from the fact that he was not tried by a white-prejudiced jury.