Six weeks later, after an intense search by the federal authority, the bullet-ridden bodies of the youths buried under an earthen dam would be located. The case galvanized the country. At the trial, one confessed avoiding jail-term, seven were convicted (but none served than more than six years) and eight would be acquitted, Mr. Killen being one of them. One lone dissenter from an all-white jury had famously proclaimed that she did not believe that a “Man of God” could participate in such a crime! The case lingered on country’s conscience for four decades, when it was reopened based on new evidence and re-analysis of old testimony. In a re-trial, the presiding judge finding Mr. Killen guilty imposed a sentence of a total of sixty years, twenty years for each victim, while opining that each life has value. To the judge, it did not matter that by now Mr. Killen had become an old fragile gentleman.
Recently, the country has been reeling from fresh waves of racism and bigotry from higher levels of leadership including the strongman himself. Ironically, soon an annual remembrance day in the memory of the slain civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will come on January 18th. He was also assassinated by another white supremacist Mr. James Earl Ray. Rev. King famously reminded us: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
At the end, Mr. Edgar Killen drew his last breath in a prison cell in Mississippi. He was 92 years old.