There was some odd witness testimony today in the trial of Edgar Ray Killen, the former KKK member charged in the “Mississippi Burning” murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerener, who were helping to register black voters in 1964.
The defense called a character witness named Harlan Majure, who said that the accused was a good man, and that Killen’s membership in the Ku Klux Klan didn’t change his opinion. Majure said the Klan “did a lot of good” and was a “peaceful organization.” That’s the same sort of nonsense spewed in support of street gangs and the mob, who may do some things to support local causes, but also do a lot more harm than good. You’d have to be moronically myopic to not see past that.
Worse, Majure — who served as the town’s Mayor in the 1990s — claimed he had no knowledge of the Klan’s bloody past.
No knowledge? He’s never heard of the Klan killing people simply because of their skin color? Never? Did he think all those burning crosses were because someone forgot a flashlight?
That’s not revisionist history — that’s ignorance. I know that Philadelphia, Mississippi, is a small rural town, but surely they have books, newspapers, magazines, televisions, and any number of other sources of information.
If Majure is at all typical of the people in that town who made up the jury pool for this trial, then Killen is going to walk out of that courthouse a free man. As I write this on Monday night, the jury has already told the judge that they’re deadlocked six to six. That’s after three hours of deliberation. The judge told them — correctly — that three hours isn’t nearly enough time to deliberate a murder case before declaring yourself a hung jury, and that they had to get back in there Tuesday morning and talk it over some more.
Maybe while they’re in there, they can ask each other if they ever heard that the Klan wasn’t — and isn’t — a peaceful civic booster organization that loves people of all races, creeds, and colors.
And when they get out, they should consider a donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors the activities of hate groups like the KKK.
Update: on Tuesday morning (6/21), the jury found Killen guilty of manslaughter.