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Killen relative allegedly threatened judge

Mississippi's attorney general alleged that one of Edgar Ray Killen’s relatives threatened to kill the judge before Killen stood trial in June in the 1964 slayings of three civil-rights workers.
/ Source: The Associated Press

One of Edgar Ray Killen’s relatives threatened to kill the judge before Killen stood trial in June in the 1964 slayings of three civil-rights workers, officials allege in new court papers.

Attorney General Jim Hood filed papers late Monday asking the state Supreme Court to revoke the $600,000 bond that Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon granted Killen last Friday. Hood said Gordon was the target of the alleged threat.

Killen, a preacher and one-time Ku Klux Klan leader, has been free since a few hours after the bond was granted. Killen is 80 and ailing, and the granting of bond pending his appeal could mean that he spends no more time in prison before he dies.

“Prior to the trial, a relative of Edgar Ray Killen threatened to kill the trial court judge and other individuals in the courtroom,” Hood’s petition to the Supreme Court said. It did not name the relative.

Gordon did not immediately return calls to The Associated Press on Tuesday. The papers did not say whether Gordon was aware of the threat.

Judge set bail terms
The judge said during a hearing Friday in Philadelphia, Miss., that bond must be granted in a manslaughter case unless a defendant is either a flight risk or a danger to the community. He said prosecutors didn’t prove either.

Killen was convicted in June on three counts of manslaughter for masterminding the 1964 slayings of civil-rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman.

Hood’s petition to the Supreme Court also mentioned a bomb threat at the Neshoba County Courthouse the day Killen was indicted in January. No explosives were found.

Because of the threat on Gordon’s life and the bomb threat, “There were extensive security measures in place throughout the trial,” Hood wrote.

Hood’s petition also mentions Killen’s 1975 felony conviction on making threatening phone calls — a case Gordon had prosecuted when he was district attorney.

‘Danger to the community’ claimed
“Edgar Ray Killen’s convictions, both for the deaths of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman and for telephone harassment, demonstrate his propensity for violence and show that his continued release constitutes a special danger to the community,” Hood wrote.

It was not clear how long it will take the Supreme Court to consider Hood’s request for revocation of the bond.

Killen was convicted on June 21 — exactly 41 years after the deaths of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman. He is the only person to ever face state charges in the deaths. The case shocked the nation and helped spur passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. The case was dramatized in the 1988 movie “Mississippi Burning.”

Killen was tried in 1967 on federal charges of violating the victims’ civil rights, but the all-white jury deadlocked, with one juror saying she could not convict a preacher. Seven others were convicted, but none served more than six years.