The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) believes an historic first step was taken in justice being served today in the manslaughter conviction of former KKK leader Edgar Ray Killen in the 1964 death of three civil rights leaders.
The verdict comes exactly 41 years to the date after James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were brutally killed in Mississippi.
NAACP Interim President and CEO Dennis Courtland Hayes said: "Hopefully this decision will bring closure to the families of the victims and the survivors. This decision serves as a reminder that the crime of murder isn't taken lightly in this country and no matter how long it takes, justice will be served."
On June 21, 1964, Chaney, 21, a black voter registration volunteer from Mississippi, Goodman, a 20-year-old white co-worker from New York, and Schwerner, a white 24-year-old native of New York, set out to investigate the burning of a black church near Philadelphia, Miss. They were stopped for speeding and allegedly ambushed by Klansmen.
NAACP Mississippi State Conference President Derrick Johnson said: "We see the verdict as a victory in the efforts to have all civil rights murders resolved. The NAACP will continue its efforts to seek justice and holds the state of Mississippi accountable for the delay in justice in this case."
Evidence during the trial revealed Killen as the mastermind behind the murders using his relationship with Mississippi city officials to strategically organize the attack. The victims were found buried in an earthen dam 44 days after they disappeared. The killings were the subject of the movie "Mississippi Burning."
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