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Justice in Mississippi: The Murder Trial of Edgar Ray Killen
     

Justice in Mississippi: The Murder Trial of Edgar Ray Killen

by Howard Ball
 

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The slaying of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1964 was a notorious event documented in Howard Ball's 2004 book Murder in Mississippi. Now Ball revisits that grisly crime to tell how, four decades later, justice finally came to Philadelphia.

Originally tried in 1967, Baptist minister and Klansman Edgar Ray Killen was set free because

Overview


The slaying of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1964 was a notorious event documented in Howard Ball's 2004 book Murder in Mississippi. Now Ball revisits that grisly crime to tell how, four decades later, justice finally came to Philadelphia.

Originally tried in 1967, Baptist minister and Klansman Edgar Ray Killen was set free because one juror couldn't bring herself to convict a preacher. Now Ball tells how progressive-minded state officials finally re-opened the case and, forty years after the fact, enabled Mississippians to reconcile with their tragic past.

The second trial of 80-year-old "Preacher" Killen, who was convicted by a unanimous jury, took place in June 2005, with the verdict delivered on the forty-first anniversary of the crime. Ball, himself a former civil rights activist, attended the trial and interviewed most of the participants, as well as local citizens and journalists covering the proceedings.

Ball retraces the cycle of events that led to the resurrection of this "cold case," from the attention generated by the film Mississippi Burning to a new state attorney general's quest for closure. He reviews the strategies of the prosecution and defense and examines the evidence introduced at the trial-as well as evidence that could not be presented-and also relates first-hand accounts of the proceedings, including his unnerving staring contest with Killen himself from only ten feet away.

Ball explores the legal, social, political, and pseudo-religious roots of the crime, including the culture of impunity that shielded from prosecution whites who killed blacks or "outside agitators." He also assesses the transformation in Mississippi's life and politics that allowed such a case to be tried after so long. Indeed, the trial itself was a major catalytic force for change in Mississippi, enabling Mississippians to convey a much more positive national image for their state.

Ball's gripping account illuminates all of this and shows that, despite racism's long stranglehold on the Deep South, redemption is not beyond the grasp of those who envision a more just society.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“An electrifying, epic American saga of tragedy and transfiguration: the 40-year journey of Mississippi from homicidal police state to crucible of justice. Ball’s authoritative account is peopled with a rich constellation of characters, from demonic Klansmen to determined Mississippi heroes to the shining spirits of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner, holding the vision of an America filled with goodness, love, and victory. . . . ‘The arc of the moral universe is long,’ said Martin Luther King Jr., ‘but it bends toward justice.’”—William Doyle, author of An American Insurrection: James Meredith and the Battle of Oxford, Mississippi, 1962 “A fine companion to Ball’s Murder in Mississippi that provides excellent insights into the disturbing episode of man’s inhumanity to man that he so superbly chronicles.”—Tinsley Yarbrough, author of Race and Redistricting: The Shaw-Cromartie Cases
Publishers Weekly
In a follow-up to his Murder in Mississippi, Ball provides an account of the 2005 trial and conviction of 80-year-old Edgar Ray Killen, who in 1964 orchestrated the murders of three civil rights workers-Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner-in Neshoba County, Miss. Ball, a Vermont Law School professor, clearly articulates his view of the trial as "a prism through which to gauge the nature of change in a city, a county, and a state that have resisted change using... violence and even murder-for hundreds of years." Ball also has a point of view, and throughout his harrowing description of the degradations blacks routinely suffered in pre-Civil Rights movement Mississippi, he displays a deep sense of outrage and anger over the brutal, state-empowered racism. According to Ball, the changes that allowed Killen to be brought to justice were varied and included media efforts, particularly the 1988 movie Mississippi Burning and local community groups seeking a South African-style reconciliation between blacks and whites. The insights into the evolving Southern culture make this worthwhile reading, and Ball's guarded optimism about the future is encouraging. With Killen's conviction, he writes, "[T]here is at last the beginning of racial reconciliation." 28 b&w photos. (Sept. 8) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780700614615
Publisher:
University Press of Kansas
Publication date:
09/28/2006
Pages:
270
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.20(d)

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