Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A Trial that Actually Is Important

Today began the trial of Edgar Ray Killen, alleged member of the Ku Klux Klan gang that murdered three poll workers in Mississippi in 1964. The murders were carried out by at least 19 police officers and KKK members who beat and shot the three men to death for no other reason than that they were advancing the cause of civil rights.

Killen was acquitted of murder at the original trial but has now been charged with orchestrating the murders. According to CNN:

Killen's attorney, James McIntyre, told CNN that the trial marked "a sad day" in state history.

"Mississippi needs to move forward, not backward. This matter was closed some 40 years ago. The state is attempting to open old wounds," McIntyre said.

There’s a reason why there is no statute of limitations on murder. Murder is a wound that never fully heals, and trying a man 40 years past his crime is better than never holding the man to account at all.

And for those who think the past is past, the news story ends:

[A] man identified as J.J. Harper handed out business cards identifying himself as imperial wizard of the American White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, greeted Killen and offered words of encouragement outside the courthouse.

We’ve come a long way since 1964. But clearly there are those who’ve chosen to stay behind. Killen’s trial should serve as a reminder that we the people through the power of our government will not tolerate murder for any reason and particularly not for Killen’s reasons.

I do not know if one murder can be more evil than any other, but if it can, Killen is at the bottom of the list and those who support him are hardly better. This man is 80 now and even should justice be served, he will spend far too little of his life behind bars. But for the families of the victims and for the state of Mississippi, just to brand the man guilty is of real importance.

Justice delayed is still justice served.

9 Comments:

At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Mia Landingham said...

This is the most important trial since the trial of Medgar Evers. This man should pay for this horrible crime that he did have involment in. His lawyer sounds kind of racist also. He should want this man to pay for what he did and serve his time. He killed those men because they was trying to make the world a better place for people of all colors to live. He's as evil as the men who killed the wonderful people before them, that was trying to make the world a better place. I think that this man should be severely punished for the crimes that he commited and give up the people who helped him. I don't agree with the death penalty, but this man deserves what type of punishment he gets just don't let him go free.

 
At 7:36 PM, Blogger iconoclast said...

I agree with everything you've said about this matter, but two observtions come to the fore:

1) After all this time has elapsed, how fair of a trial will this be? How many witnesses are still alive and can remember the events? What is the state of the physical evidence? Legally speaking, is there a good chance successfully to prosecute this matter?

2) What is the real purpose of the trial? Will justice be done to the murder victims at this point? How do you punish an 80-year-old?

I just hate to see a trial that is more aimed at showing how far the New South has come in racial matters than at establishing true justice.

 
At 11:52 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Iconoclast,

Well, Killen is almost certainly, without a doubt guilty. He was only originally acquitted because one woman on the jury said although she thought he was guilty, she couldn't send a minister to jail (Killen was a part-time preacher).

Now that is, within the rules of our legal system, besides the point. Killen is still afforded the label of innocent until proven guilty and the prosecution must still make their case. They do have a case but it relies fairly heavily on the statements of people who were involved who are now dead. No surprise, the defense's first move was to try to get those papers removed from evidence.

As for this just being aimed more at proving the South is now different, I'm not sure the motivstion matters. It's the message that's important. And I think the message is a good one.

 
At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Iconoclast,

Allow justice to be served.

If our system of justice has the perseverance to pursue for 40 years one of your fellow ex-North Carolinians - a 65 year old individual named Charles Jenkins who deserted the military while serving in Korea in 1965 - then I expect no less perseverance from the same justice system to pursue murderers and/or their accomplices.

Also: There can be little doubt that things have improved in what you deem the "New South" -- in addition to other areas of our country. But there still remains isolated pockets that aren't quite so new. Take for example - The community of Linden in Cass County Texas. Here's a read that should raise your eyebrows: "Old South racism lives in Texas town" Let those isolated folks know that there are those who will hunt them down and bring them to justice - for more than the proverbial "slap on the wrist."

Let all people who have darkness in their hearts who commit such heinous crimes such as murder know that they will be pursued for the rest of their natural lives and prosecuted no matter the length of time.

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger Heiuan said...

I'm torn between two sides on this. As a human being, I certainly applaud being able prosecute and convict a murderer.

On the other hand, this smacks very close to double jeopardy, in my opinion. Its a very, very thin line that we're treading here.

I also don't agree with being able to sue someone in Civil court just because you lost in Criminal court.

That just seems wrong to me, in lieu of the judicial protections offered under our Constitution. It may be the LETTER of the law, but it seems to me to be flying in the face of the SPIRIT of the law.

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Heiuan,

While I agree that the integrity of our judicial system must be maintained, Killen is not facing any greater kind of double jeapordy than do a lot of criminals. The police who beat Rodney King, Terry Nichols (Timothy McVeigh's accomplice) and many, many others have all stood trial more than once for what was, ostesibly the same crime. So I'm not about to start using Killen as the example to reform the system.

That's not to say reform isn't warranted (it may be), just that it shouldn't be tied to a specific case and, if it is, this isn't the one.

 
At 1:54 PM, Blogger Heiuan said...

Alan, I agree with you.

It's just my personal opinion that for many years now, if prosecutors or victim's families have lost in criminal court on the original charge, then they turn around and file suit for the same alleged crime but using different indictments.

It's splitting hairs to me and I'm very wary of that. That's all. Maybe I'm too much of an idealist. As I said before, I'm really torn on this kind of issue.

 
At 3:17 PM, Blogger ChrisJ said...

Just getting in, and just wondering if this is the trial that is the result of the high school girls who were doing research and brought it to the attention of their local government?

 
At 7:59 PM, Anonymous Jimmy Joe-Bob said...

hi

 

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