Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon set an initial Mar. 28, 2005, trial date for Edgar Ray Killen, 79, after a meeting in his chambers with attorneys Wednesday morning.
A Carthage attorney hired by Killen says he agreed to take on the case because it has "some very intriguing issues."
Mitch Moran says it took decades to get Killen to trial, but now he will be tried in less than 90 days. He also questioned why a county grand jury, which met last Thursday, had indicted only Killen.
Killen's bond was set at $250,000. He posted bond a short time later and was released from jail.
Killen, a part-time preacher, is charged in the 1964 nightrider killings in rural Neshoba County. The deaths focused national attention on the civil rights struggle in the south and were dramatized in the 1988 movie "Mississippi Burning."
James Chaney, 21, an African-American from Meridian, and two white New Yorkers, Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24, were ambushed, beaten and shot.
Nineteen men, including Killen, were indicted in the 1960s on federal charges in the case. Killen's case ended in a hung jury, but seven others were convicted in 1967 of violating the victims' civil rights. None served more than six years.
Killen is the first person to face state murder charges in their deaths. He pleaded not guilty during a brief hearing that followed his arrest last Thursday. He has since been held without bond and in isolation at the Neshoba County Jail.