Man charged over 1964 Ku Klux Klan murders

The Guardian, UK/January 26, 2007
By Suzanne Goldenberg

The two young African-American men were still alive when their bodies were chained to an engine block and dumped in the Mississippi. Yesterday, nearly 43 years after their disappearance, a former Klansman was charged with their kidnap.

In the latest instance of justice delayed from the civil rights era, James Seale, 71, a former sheriff's deputy, could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of charges of kidnapping and conspiring to murder Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee in May 1964. They were both 19 when they were killed.

Mr Seale denied the charges yesterday at a court in Jackson, Mississippi.

"These tragic murders are straight from among the darkest page of our country's history," Robert Mueller, the FBI director, said yesterday. "And while, sadly, we cannot right the wrongs of the past, we can pursue justice to the end."

Mr Seale's arrest on Wednesday is the 28th in connection with murders from the civil rights era that went unpunished because the killers, often members of the Ku Klux Klan, were protected by racist law enforcement authorities.

"I've been crying. First time I've cried in about 50 years," the victim's brother, Thomas Moore, 63, told the Associated Press after the arrest. "It's not going to bring his life back. But some way or another, I think he would be satisfied."

The young men were last seen on May 2 1964 near an ice cream stand in the town of Meadville, where they were picked up by a car driven by Klansmen posing as police. According to the indictment read out yesterday, the two men were driven to a nearby forest preserve at gunpoint, where they were beaten and attached to the engine block of a Jeep. They were loaded into the boot of a red Ford and driven to a point on the Mississippi 75 miles away in the state of Louisiana. There they were rowed to the middle of the river, thrown overboard and left to drown.

In October 1964 Mr Seale and Charles Marcus Edwards were arrested. FBI documents from the time show that Mr Seale all but confessed. Mr Seale's re-arrest marks an attempt by authorities in the US south to bring justice to the crimes of the civil rights era, with belated convictions in the case of the murdered activist, Medgar Evars, and the Birmingham church bombings of 1963.

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