Killen Trial: A Closer Look, Part 4

By  | 

Click here to view this story

Every civil rights era crime that has been prosecuted in the last 15 years has ended with a guilty verdict.

That's the recent history staring at the two men who'll be defending Killen when the trial begins next month.

Mitch Moran and James McIntyre are two men from two different eras, Moran a younger up and coming attorney, McIntyre a grizzled veteran who has been through trials like this before.

As quick to defend a traffic violator as a DUI offender as a murder suspect, Mitch Moran has certainly developed a reputation as a fighter for the underdog.

But defending Edgar Ray Killen will likely be his toughest test. It will certainly be his highest profile one.

"He needs an adequate defense, and Mr. Moran is out for the little guy. That's been said about him," said Jim Prince, editor of the Neshoba Democrat newspaper.

The Carthage-based attorney was not a well known entity in Philadelphia before this began, but he has certainly become that since then, and his work so far has drawn praise, even from places you wouldn't normally expect, like the NAACP.

"I really commend Mr. Moran for taking on a case like this. This is a historical case; there's a lot of things that's going to come from this. And for him to take it on, basically alone, shows how courageous he is also," said NAACP president Leroy Clemons.

Moran won't be totally alone. He and Killen have enlisted the help of a man who has been successful in a past civil rights case.

Nearly forty years ago, James McIntyre was the attorney for former Neshoba County Sheriff Lawrence Rainey, one of 18 men who were tried on federal conspiracy charges in 1967. Rainey was one of eight of those men who were acquitted.

"I don't think it was my legal skills that I won the case on. I think it was just a lack of evidence," McIntyre said.

Neither McIntyre nor Moran have been successful, though, in multiple attempts to get the case dismissed. McIntyre now admits he expects the trial will go as scheduled on June 13, despite a hearing next week to once more have the case thrown out, this time on grounds of selective prosecution by the state.