A jury panel of four blacks and 13 whites has been sworn in to hear the murder trial of Edgar Ray Killen, charged with murdering three civil rights workers in 1964.
A stunning moment came during opening statements. After Edgar Ray Killen spent so much time denying he was ever a part of the Ku Klux Klan, his lawyer Mitch Moran admitted just the opposite.
Moran told jurors to assume Killen was part of the Klan, but that doesn't mean he had anything to do with the murders of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.
Moran hinted the defense would try to prove that former Neshoba County sheriff, Lawrence Rainey, and KKK imperial wizard Sam Bowers were responsible for the deaths.
Afterwards, Killen's other attorney, James McIntyre, defended the strategy.
"The Klan's not on trial here today," said McIntyre. "There are hate groups not on trial here today. They're gone. They're disbanded. And Mr. Killen's on trial for murder."
"I was a little surprised at some of the things he had to say, but that's his strategy. They'll have to live with it," said Neshoba County district attorney Mark Duncan.
During the state's opening statement, attorney general Jim Hood said not only was Killen in the Klan, but he was the kleegle of the Neshoba County clavern. And Hood said he was the man who planned and organized the murders of the three civil rights workers.
"The evidence will be clear that he was the leader of the Klan," Hood said. "We're not trying the Klan, he's correct in that. We're trying a murder."
McIntyre also addressed how daunting the task of seating a fair and impartial jury in the case was.
"Very difficult. Very difficult. Not strong opinions but just opinions. I don't know how strong they are, but everybody's got an opinion," McIntyre said. "You know, everybody's heard about the case."
Court ended earlier than usual on Wednesday, to allow jurors time to get their belongings and prepare to be sequestered in a hotel.
Spectators wishing to observe the trial are advised to arrive early.
Parking is at a premium in downtown Philadelphia. You may park at the middle school and behind the police station.
Neshoba County Sheriff Larry Myers also offered some advice for observers.
"Anybody that goes upstairs to the courtroom will have to go through the metal detector. They walk through a detector to make sure they don't have anything on them they're not supposed to. We've had a few pocketknives and we've had to take those. We've taken some cellphones," said Myers.
A motion will be made Thursday by the defense to bar transcripts from Killen's 1967 federal trial in Meridian, in which jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict.