A confessed Ku Klux Klansman testified Monday that in 1964 he feared a fellow KKK member, who is on trial in the deadly attacks on two black teenagers that year.
Charles Marcus Edwards, who has been granted immunity from prosecution, testified that he and James Ford Seale were in the same Klan chapter, or "klavern," led by Seale's father. Edwards also testified that he and Seale were among the Klansmen who abducted and attacked Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore on May 2, 1964.
Seale, 71, has pleaded not guilty to federal kidnapping and conspiracy charges tied to the attacks and has denied belonging to the Klan. He will not testify in his own defense, his court-appointed attorneys say. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Edwards first started testifying last Tuesday and was called back to the witness stand Monday.
Federal prosecutor Paige Fitzgerald asked Edwards if he had told the FBI in the 1960s that he would not give investigators any information about the Seale family if he had it.
"Were you afraid of the Seales?" Fitzgerald asked.
Edwards responded: "In 1964 I was."
Edwards testified last week that the Klan oath of "Christian militancy" includes a pledge not to reveal information about other members or about the Klan's activities.
Seale and Edwards were among suspected Klan members who in 1966 were issued subpoenas to testify in Congress before the House Un-American Activities Committee. They took the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and did not reveal any information.
‘I’d have been a dead man’
Fitzgerald asked Edwards on Monday what he believed would have happened to him if he had testified before Congress and revealed any information about the Klan.
"I'd have been a dead man," he said.
The sixth day of testimony was delayed and jurors were not in the courtroom Monday morning as U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate listened to attorneys' arguments about whether to let Edwards make references to a TV interview that another Klan member gave several years ago.
Wingate decided not to allow attorneys to ask Edwards questions about the ABC "20/20" interview Edwards saw in which Ernest Gilbert discussed what he knew about the attacks on Dee and Moore. Gilbert was a Klansman who became an FBI informant.
Instead, Wingate allowed the prosecutor to question Edwards about the source of his testimony to that point.
Edwards, a longtime friend of Seale's, testified that Seale pointed a sawed-off shotgun at Dee and Moore while Klansmen beat them in a remote part of the Homochitto National Forest. He also said that Seale talked weeks later about helping dump the young men in a Mississippi River backwater south of Vicksburg.
Defense attorney Kathy Nester repeatedly challenged statements Edwards had given to law enforcement officers and in news accounts over the past four decades.
Defense attorneys say that for Seale to be convicted for kidnapping, prosecutors must convince jurors that Dee and Moore were alive when they were taken into Louisiana.
The jury could start deliberating by midweek. There are eight white and four black jurors. Three white alternates also have been hearing the case but will be sent home unless one of the regular jurors cannot take part in deciding a verdict.