Saturday, June 19, 2010

Attorney: Settlement Near In '64 Slayings

Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee

Attorney: Settlement Near In '64 Slayings

Jerry Mitchell •
June 15, 2010

A landmark lawsuit against Franklin County filed by
families of two black teens killed by Klansmen in
1964 is near a settlement.

"The parties went in before a magistrate (judge) on
Wednesday and have almost reached an agreement
on the matter," said Margaret Burnham, director of
Northeastern University's Civil Rights and
Restorative Justice Program and one of several
attorneys for the families. "A decision has to be
made by the (Franklin County) Board of Supervisors
to accept terms. They meet again June 21."

On May 2, 1964, Klansmen abducted and beat Henry
Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore, both 19,
before taking them to an old portion of the
Mississippi River and drowning them.

Reputed Klansman James Ford Seale, convicted in
2007 on kidnapping and conspiracy charges, is
serving three life sentences. On June 4, his
attorneys filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme
Court, hoping to have the case heard by the

The amount of the tentative settlement remains
confidential, Burnham said. "The plaintiffs are
content and feel the mission of bringing this lawsuit
was accomplished, which was to get a further sense
of what actually happened on May 2, 1964, when
two African-African young men were kidnapped and
murdered by the Klan as we all know and to
determine what, if any, role local officials played in
the events."

Franklin County's attorney, Michael Wolf, of Jackson,
would not comment Monday on the matter.

Moore's brother, Thomas, who successfully
championed the case's prosecution, said Monday he
was "satisfied with where we are in the case."

Last year, U.S. District Judge Tom Lee concluded the
families should be able to move forward with the
litigation, making it the first such lawsuit to clear
the hurdle of the statute of limitations since
unpunished killings from the civil rights era began
to be reopened in 1989.

Attorneys for Franklin County had called the killings
of Dee and Moore "abhorrent" but insisted the Klan
was solely responsible.

They had argued the lawsuit should be dismissed
because the statute of limitations is three years for
this type of litigation and would have expired in

But Lee cited a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
decision that found the statute of limitations "does
not run until the plaintiff is in possession of the
'crucial facts' that he has been hurt and the
defendant is involved."

The lawsuit brought by the families' attorneys -
Burnham, David Kelston, Rob McDuff and Sibyl Byrd
- said then-Franklin County Sheriff Wayne Hutto and
Deputy Kirby Shell conspired with the Klan to
commit these crimes, refused to investigate
afterward and then covered up what happened.
Hutto and Shell died decades ago.

The first time the families knew of this was when the
federal grand jury that indicted Seale in 2007 also
named Hutto as an unindicted co-conspirator, the
lawsuit said.

To comment on this story, call Jerry Mitchell at
(601) 961-7064.

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