Prosecutor says relative of ex-Klansman threatened judge before trial in 1964 slayings
JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi’s attorney general has asked that Edgar Ray Killen’s bail be revoked because one of his relatives threatened to kill the judge before the former Ku Klux Klan leader’s trial in the 1964 slayings of three civil-rights workers.”Prior to the trial, a relative of Edgar Ray Killen threatened to kill the trial court judge and other individuals in the courtroom,” Attorney General Jim Hood wrote in papers filed late Monday with the state Supreme Court.Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday that he was told a week before the trial that a threat on his life had been made by one of Killen’s brothers, J.D. Killen, a 64-year-old former lumber mill worker. Gordon said the threat was “indirect” and neither he nor other authorities pressed charges.Gordon freed Edgar Ray Killen on $600,000 bond last Friday while he appeals his manslaughter convictions and 60-year sentence in the slayings. The 80-year-old Killen, another brother and some friends put up property to secure the bond.J.D. Killen denied the allegations Tuesday in an interview with the AP.”That’s totally wrong. They’re trying to set me up,” he said. “I have never threatened anyone.”The judge said during a hearing Friday in Philadelphia that bond must be granted in a manslaughter case unless a defendant is a flight risk or a danger to the community. He said prosecutors didn’t prove either.Edgar Ray Killen was convicted in June on three counts of manslaughter for masterminding the 1964 slayings of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman.Hood’s petition to the Supreme Court also mentioned a bomb threat at the Neshoba County Courthouse the day Killen was indicted in January. No explosives were found.As well, the petition notes Killen’s 1975 felony conviction on making threatening phone calls – a case Gordon prosecuted when he was district attorney.”Edgar Ray Killen’s convictions, both for the deaths of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman and for telephone harassment, demonstrate his propensity for violence and show that his continued release constitutes a special danger to the community,” Hood wrote.It was not clear how long it will take the Supreme Court to consider Hood’s request for revocation of the bond.Killen was convicted on June 21 – exactly 41 years after the deaths of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman. The case shocked the nation, helped spur passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and was dramatized in the 1988 movie “Mississippi Burning.”Killen was tried in 1967 on federal charges of violating the victims’ civil rights, but the all-white jury deadlocked, with one juror saying she could not convict a preacher.Seven others were convicted, but none served more than six years.Vail – Colorado
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