Killen Trial: A Closer Look, Part 3

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Attorney Gen. Jim Hood and Neshoba County District Attorney Mark Duncan have taken their share of criticism over the last few months, from one side for bringing up this case again in the first place, and from the other for only indicting one person.

Whether you like it or not, they are the men largely responsible for the fact that a trial is scheduled in the murders of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman.

Nov. 4, 2003, a day that might have very well have changed the course of Mississippi's and Neshoba County's history was also election day.

Former district attorney and assistant Attorney Gen. Jim Hood was elected attorney general and longtime Neshoba County assistant district attorney Mark Duncan was elected to lead the office.

In a matter of months, they would find themselves in the middle of a firestorm that culminated in an indictment in what might be the most notorious murder case the state has ever seen.

"I think generationally, you had the right people come along, and the fortitude of the attorney general and the district attorney to do the right thing and not back down to pressure, I think is admirable," said Jim Prince, editor of the Neshoba Democrat newspaper.

Whether or not they're doing the right thing, though, depends on whom you ask. Both their predecessors, former attorney general Mike Moore, and former district attorney Ken Turner, looked at this case, but did not find enough evidence at the time to move forward. And some say they believe the fact that the evidence was found now is suspicious.

"A case like this is so old, there must be some other motives to bring this up again, than the administration of justice," said James McIntyre, one of Killen's attorneys.

And many people who know Edgar Ray Killen say they believe he was indicted only because he was an easy target. Killen's brother is among them.

"They had to have somebody. They picked him to do it, because he's pretty much well known in the county and outside the state," said Kenneth Killen.

Hood claims no ulterior motives. He called this case a matter of right and wrong.

"I looked at the evidence. I determined it was sufficient to bring to a grand jury and the grand jury indicted one person," Hood said. "And they gave me my marching orders and I'm going to try this case, so in 20 years, I won't regret not doing everything I could to bring this case to trial."

The prosecution has formidable adversaries on the other side of the aisle, a man who has gained a reputation as a fighter for "the little guy" and another whose career bookends this entire case.