updated 6/27/2005 10:19:39 PM ET 2005-06-28T02:19:39

A judge on Monday denied a new trial for one time Ku Klux Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen, convicted last week of manslaughter for the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers.

James McIntyre, one of Killen’s attorneys, told Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon that the defense had not expected prosecutors to ask that jurors in the murder trial be given the option of a manslaughter conviction.

“We did not come to court prepared to defend a manslaughter charge, but that of murder,” McIntyre said. He argued the manslaughter option was unfair to Killen.

Killen, 80, was dressed in a yellow Neshoba County jail jumpsuit in the brief court hearing.

District Attorney Mark Duncan said other courts have repeatedly ruled that jury instructions allowing the option of a manslaughter conviction are proper in murder cases.

“The law is very clear in Mississippi that manslaughter is a lesser included offense in murder,” Duncan said.

He also argued that Killen was not harmed by the manslaughter instruction because “the defense they put on wouldn’t have changed one bit.”

Gordon turned down the defense request, and Killen’s lawyers have said they would raise the same issue on appeal. A request for an appeal bond, which will allow Killen to be free while his appeal runs its course, would be filed later, McIntyre said.

41 years after
The manslaughter verdicts against Killen came last Tuesday, exactly 41 years after the killings of black Mississippian James Chaney and white New Yorkers Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. The case shocked the nation, helped spur the passage of civil rights legislation and inspired the 1988 movie “Mississippi Burning.”

Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said Killen would be moved to the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County for classification and evaluation.

Epps said Killen, who has been using a wheelchair, would undergo medical and psychological evaluations to determine his prisoner classification and where he would be housed, either at the Rankin facility or the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

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