Monday, October 06, 2008

Mississippi: Another Ugly Chapter of State History Open

James Ford Seale (center), freed by the statute of limitations on kidnapping for involvement in the murders of Charles Moore (left) and Henry Dee


Just when Mississippi closed an old and ugly chapter of its history, the book was ripped open again by a legal technicality. Last year, more than 43 years after the crimes occurred, one man was imprisoned for his involvement in the kidnapping and ultimate murder of two local black men.

Justice was finally served, so we thought.

The 2007 arrest and conviction of James Ford Seale was the latest in a long string of old civil rights era cases reopened and seemingly brought to finality.

Certainly the kidnapping and murders of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee deserved justice.

Their final hours in May 1964 were horrifying. Their mutilated bodies were weighted down and dumped in the backwaters of the Mississippi River - just because they were black.

Last month, Seale's 2007 conviction was overturned on the grounds that the statute of limitations on kidnapping had run out.

Now federal prosecutors are seeking the full appeals court to consider the case. Success there seems unlikely.

But local officials - who in the 1960s were in collusion with the Ku Klux Klan - may ultimately be able to press charges now.

That may be the only hope to seeing justice served.

We urge federal and local prosecutors to keep this case at the top of their agendas.

No other case deserves aggressive prosecution more than one of a hate-crime, murder and a 43-year evasion of justice.
James Ford Seale receives acquittal judgement
September 10, 2008

In a landmark decision by U-S Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, kidnapping conviction of erstwhile Ku Klux Klan member James Ford Seale has been overturned. The court said that “it agrees with arguments by James Ford Seale’s attorney that the statute of limitations in the case had expired.”

James Ford Seale was charged with the kidnapping of two African-American teenagers in Meadville, Mississippi, in 1964. He was convicted on June 14, 2007 by a federal jury. Klansman James Ford Seale was sentenced August 24, 2007, to three life terms.

However, the court decided to throw out Seale’s conviction and render a judgement of acquittal. The three judge panel said the statute of limitations had expired based on an amendment to the federal kidnapping statute in 1972. The judges said it applies to Seales’ case because the “alleged offense occurred in 1964 and the indictment was issued in 2007.”

On May 2, 1964, Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hazekiah Dee, two 19-year-old black teenagers, were hitchhiking near an ice cream stand in Meadville, Mississippi when they were abducted by members of the Ku Klux Klan. The two were taken into the woods and beaten. They were then stuffed into the trunk of a Volkswagen, driven across the state line into Louisiana, strapped to an old engine block and some railroad ties and dumped alive into the Mississippi River.