Jury decision brings justice in slayings

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2005

It was not, as prosecutors said, a perfect victory. But Mississippi was able to right another wrong Tuesday when a Neshoba County jury convicted former Klansman Edgar Ray Killen of manslaughter in the deaths of three Civil Rights workers 41 years ago.

The state had sought a murder conviction. But the manslaughter verdict &045; a decision the jury felt was best in light of the evidence &045; is at least a step forward in a case that has hung over Neshoba County and all of Mississippi for decades.

And, in light of the embarrassment our two U.S. senators gave us last week, the verdict sheds a positive light on Mississippi, as reporters from across the country have been camped out in Philadelphia covering the trial.

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We can only hope Thad Cochran and Trent Lott would be glad to see their home state finally hold someone responsible for the grisly deaths of three innocent men &045; James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman.

But Cochran and Lott disappointed us completely last week when they did not sign a resolution apologizing for lynchings that took place across the South &045; many of which took place in Mississippi. Lott had no response to the media, but Cochran offered the truly lame excuse that he &uot;was not personally involved&uot; in the lynching incidents.

Cochran at least said he &uot;deplored&uot; those lynchings, but we’re not exactly sure what point the senators were trying to make by not signing a simple but powerfully symbolic apology.

Perhaps Cochran and Lott could learn from the brave Neshoba County jurors who stood up to possible threats from their own community when they convicted Killen. Some jury members apparently feared reprisals in their hometown, which remained divided over the guilt or innocence of the former preacher and Klansman.

But in the end they did the right thing and brought justice for three young men who were only trying to right other wrongs, long ago in Mississippi.