A former Ku Klux Klansman was convicted of manslaughter in Philadelphia, Mi., in the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers, 41 years to the day after they disappeared, USA Today reports. A jury of nine whites and three blacks rejected murder charges against Edgar Ray Killen. Killen, 80, was taken into custody. He could be sentenced to 20 years in prison for each of three counts; sentencing is tomorrow.
It is the latest attempt by a Southern state to atone for justice denied during the civil rights era, USA Today says. In 1994, Mississippi convicted Byron de la Beckwith in the 1963 murder of state NAACP leader Medgar Evers. In Alabama, Frank Cherry was convicted in 2002 of killing four black girls in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing. In the Philadelphia, Mi., case, the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were one of the most publicized crimes of a bloody era. Lawyers for Killen, a sawmill operator, plan to appeal on the basis that the jury should not have been allowed to consider manslaughter charges.