District Attorney looks into possibility of Seale murder trial in Natchez

Published 12:26 am Wednesday, October 1, 2008

NATCHEZ — It’s possible that James Ford Seale could be tried locally — for murder.

Seale, of Roxie, has been in jail since 2007 in connection with federal kidnapping charges in the civil rights era murders of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee. But his conviction was recently overturned.

Mississippi Sixth Judicial District District Attorney Ronnie Harper said the possibility exists that Seale could be prosecuted in the sixth district, but that a number of as-yet-undetermined factors would come into play before that decision could be made.

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“The federal folks and the people in the attorney general’s office, they have filed their appeal and they are looking at their options,” Harper said.

Though Seale was convicted in June 2007 on kidnapping and conspiracy charges in relation to the 1964 deaths of Moore and Dee, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction after Seale’s attorney successfully argued that the statute of limitations for the case had expired.

It is because of that statute of limitations that if Seale were to be tried locally, it would be for murder.

Before he could decide if the case could be made in the sixth district, Harper said he needed to get all of the information and transcripts from the federal trial.

“I have been updated but I don’t have all of the information,” he said. “I need the trial transcripts. I couldn’t be present at the (federal) trial because I was subpoenaed to appear.”

There are also jurisdictional issues, however.

The murders actually happened on the other side of the Mississippi River in Madison Parish, but Harper said that there is a state law that if the commission of a crime starts or continues within its boundaries it could possibly be prosecuted in the state.

“I would have to determine whether or not (the case) meets that criteria,” Harper said.

There is not yet any kind of timeline about whether or not a case will be built against Seale.

“I don’t know how long it is going to take to get the information or to complete a review of it,” Harper said. “There are a lot of things that are out there right now.”

A congressional act passed in 1972 set the statute of limitations for kidnapping at five years.

Seale was originally arrested in connection with the murders in 1964, but was later released. He remained free until January 2007, when U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton picked up the case following a high profile trial of a more famous civil rights murder in Mississippi.