Sun, Aug 26, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Seale receives three life terms in jail for 1964 killing of two black teenagers

AP , JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI

Convicted reputed Ku Klux Klansman James Ford Seale, left, is taken by US Marshalls from the federal courthouse in Jackson, Mississippi, on June 15 after being convicted on federal charges of kidnapping and conspiracy in the 1964 deaths of Charles Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee.

PHOTO: EPA

A reputed white supremacist showed no emotion as he was sentenced to three life terms in prison for his role in the abduction and killing of two black teenagers 43 years ago.

James Ford Seale, 72, had been convicted for kidnapping and conspiracy in the deaths of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, two 19-year-olds who disappeared on May 2, 1964. Seale and other Ku Klux Klansmen beat them, then dumped them into the Mississippi River to drown, according to testimony.

The young men's decomposing bodies, mostly just skeletal remains, were found more than two months later. No one was ever convicted in the case, until Moore's brother urged federal authorities to revisit the case.

The US is taking a look at more than a dozen unsolved cases from that era of black-white segregation and civil rights struggle.

US District Judge Henry Wingate told Seale the crimes for which he was convicted were "horrific" and "unspeakable."

The judge denied a defense request to allow Seale to go free on bond while his case is appealed.

"Mr. Seale maintains his innocence to this crime," federal public defender Kathy Nester said.

Moore's brother, Thomas, read from a prepared statement directed at Seale.

"I hope the spirit of Charles and Henry come to your cell every night and visit with you to teach you what is meant by love of your fellow man," he said.

The jury of eight whites and four blacks took two hours in June to reach the unanimous verdicts to convict Seale.

The prosecution's star witness was Charles Marcus Edwards, a confessed Klansman who received immunity from prosecution for his admitted role in the abductions and his testimony.

Edwards testified that Seale told him about how he and other Klansmen bound the teenagers with tape, put them into a car trunk and drove them to the area where they were dumped, alive, into the river.

Seale was arrested on a state murder charge in 1964, but the charge was later dropped. Federal prosecutors say the state charges were dropped because local law enforcement officers in 1964 were in collusion with the Klan. Seale denies ever belonging to the Klan.

Federal prosecutors revived the case in 2005. Except for Edwards, the other people implicated in the crime had died, leaving Seale alone to face prosecution.

Wan Kim, head of the US Department of Justice's civil rights division, said after the sentencing that the FBI has compiled a list of more than 100 such unsolved cases.

Kim -- who announced his resignation on Thursday -- said the justice department will pursue those cases, regardless of whether the Senate approves a cold-cases bill that would give the department more resources. A bill has passed the House and awaits Senate consideration.

Kim cautioned, however, that reviving decades-old cases can be difficult.

"While our commitment, our desire and our energy are manifest and there, we need to lower expectations because these are tough, tough cases to put together," Kim said. "And in many, many instances, because of the laws that existed at the time, there will not be federal jurisdiction for many of these offenses. We know that. But that doesn't mean we're not trying."

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