Week’s trial is a necessary evil for state

Published 9:29 am Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The harsh spotlight of public scrutiny again illuminates Mississippi’s shady, painful past this week.

On Wednesday, jury selection is scheduled to begin in the kidnapping and conspiracy trial of a reputed Ku Klux Klansman from Roxie. The case is the latest in a string of reopened cases from the Civil Rights Era.

Defendant James Ford Seale, 71, will face prosecutors more than four decades after his alleged crime. Seale and Charles Marcus Edwards were originally arrested in connection with the 1964 kidnapping and subsequent murders of Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore.

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The 19-year-old black men were kidnapped, beaten and weighted down before being dumped alive into the Mississippi River. The 1964 federal investigation was turned over to state authorities after federal agents were overwhelmed with the search for three civil rights workers missing from near Philadelphia.

In local hands, the investigation quickly dissolved and no one was convicted in the killings.

This week, 43 years after Moore and Dee were drowned alive, their spirits again will stir as the government attempts to convict one of their alleged killers.

As the case proceeds, Mississippi must relive all of the horrible stereotypes our state has fought for decades.

Like a painful splinter, those stereotypes are just below the surface, touching a nerve when you least expect it.

The only way to stop the pain is to dig the splinter out while the whole world is watching.