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Man convicted in slayings of 3 civil rights workers dies in prison

13 January 2018

A Klansman found guilty for his role in the 1964 Freedom Summer killings of three civil rights workers has died in prison, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

The part-time preacher and lumber mill operator was 80 when he was convicted on the three counts of manslaughter - 41 years to the day after the murders of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner.

Their disappearance and deaths shocked the country and helped catalyse the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

The slayings were documented in the 1988 movie "Mississippi Burning". In 2005, he was convicted of manslaughter for the 1964 deaths of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman outside Philadelphia, Mississippi. Hours later, they were released from jail, chased down by carloads of Klansmen, and shot to death.

At the time, no federal murder statutes existed, and the state of MS never brought charges. Chaney, the only African-American among them, had been badly beaten.

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Officials said the 92-year-old Killen died late Thursday. The dramatic search for the missing men drew national attention to the violent resistance to the civil rights movement.

The FBI arrested more than a dozen suspects, including the county's Deputy Sherriff, due to their alleged involvement in the killings. His conviction and sentence of three consecutive 20-year sentences was upheld by the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2007.

After federal intervention, 18 men were trialled in 1967 on civil rights violation charges.

He was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

The state did not pursue the case for four decades, but eventually Killen was brought to face a new trial in 2005. Killen, who operated a sawmill and was known by the nickname Preacher because he presided part time at a Baptist church, told the mob to buy gloves and how to dispose of the bodies but was not accused of being at the murder scene, the prosecution said.

Man convicted in slayings of 3 civil rights workers dies in prison