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'Mississippi Burning' Convict Won't Confess

Edgar Ray Killen says he's a political prisoner
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 23, 2014 4:07 AM CST

(Newser) – Edgar Ray Killen has granted his first interview since being imprisoned in 2005 for the killing of three young civil rights workers 50 years ago, but he still refuses to discuss the events of 1964, much less confess. The 89-year-old, speaking to the AP inside the Mississippi State Penitentiary, says he is still a firm segregationist who doesn't believe in racial equality, but he claims he has no animosity toward blacks. The former sawmill worker, Baptist preacher, and KKK organizer is serving a 60-year sentence for manslaughter after being found guilty of orchestrating the killing of the three men in the events depicted in the movie Mississippi Burning. His first trial, in 1967, resulted in a mistrial.

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"I have never discussed the 1964 case with anyone—an attorney, the FBI, local law nor friend—and those who say so are lying," he told the AP before agreeing to an interview. Instead, he spoke about his time as a preacher, the hundreds of people he associated with in his life, and corruption in the Mississippi prison system. He insists he is not a criminal but a political prisoner and believes he wouldn't have been found guilty if he hadn't suffered brain damage in a logging accident a few months before the 2005 trial. "I could have beat that thing if I'd had the mental ability," he says. The Rev. Julia Chaney Moss, sister of one of the men murdered while investigating the burning of a black church, says she's not surprised he won't talk about the case and "I can only wish Mr. Killen peace at this juncture in his life." (Read more Mississippi stories.)

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