Killen Sentenced to Maximum

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Edgar Ray Killen will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. He received the maximum sentence for his role in the deaths of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney.

Judge Marcus Gordon sentenced Killen to 60 years in prison, 20 years on each count of manslaughter in which he was convicted. It's the harshest penalty Gordon could have imposed, and during sentencing, he said it was not an easy one.

"I never really know how to do it. I just have done what I thought was the best I could do, keeping with the law, my own responsibility to the people, and to the defendant before me," Gordon said.

Michael Schwerner's widow, Rita Bender, says the sentence is not a any consolation for her, but she does believe the judge's sentence is the right one.

"Every life has value, and every life has equal value," Bender said. "And I think the judge's sentence said that."

The sentence did not come as a surprise to Killen's lawyers. Mitch Moran says most any sentence will keep him in jail for the rest of his life.

"A five year sentence is a life sentence, but if he went five, that's not going to make anybody happy," said Moran.

Killen has never admitted to any involvement in the deaths of the three civil rights workers, and his lawyers say they don't know if he ever will. But Attorney General Jim Hood says he hopes he will one day.

"Sometime, he's going to have to admit his crime, if he things he's going to get into Heaven and I hope at some point he'll reach that," Hood said.

Killen is currently in the Neshoba County Jail, and he'll stay there until at least Monday, when his lawyers will ask that he be released on bond while his appeals are pending.

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