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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 June, 2005, 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK
Preacher jailed over KKK killings
Ray Killen leaving court after being sentenced
Killen has been held in Neshoba County Jail since his conviction
One-time Ku Klux Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen has been jailed for 60 years for masterminding the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi.

Killen, 80, was convicted of three counts of manslaughter on Tuesday - 41 years after the men were killed.

Judge Marcus Gordon sentenced the preacher to 20 years for each killing.

The murders helped spur passage of the 1964 US Civil Rights Act and the search for evidence was dramatised in the 1988 movie Mississippi Burning.

Killen, a Baptist, will appeal against the convictions on Monday, arguing the jury should not have been able to consider manslaughter charges as an alternative to murder.

He has been held at Neshoba County Jail since his conviction and arrived at the Philadelphia court in a wheelchair, dressed in a bright yellow prison jump suit.

Killed and buried

The activists were two white men from New York and a local black colleague, who were killed while campaigning for the registration of black voters.

Civil rights activists
The victims became martyrs to the cause of civil rights

They were arrested for a dubious traffic violation, and attacked by a gang of Klansmen and police after being released in the middle of the night.

They were abducted as they drove out of the Mississippi town and shot dead.

Their bodies, riddled with bullets and badly beaten, were buried at a dam and only found 44 days later after an extensive search.

Killen, who was a suspect in the original investigation but never convicted, was re-arrested after new evidence emerged.

The three gentlemen who were killed, each life has value, and each life is equal as valuable as the other life and I have taken that into consideration...
Judge Marcus Gordon

Judge Gordon anticipated criticism of his decision to hand Killen what is in effect a life sentence, but said the law made no distinction for a defendant's age.

He told Killen: "The three gentlemen who were killed, each life has value, and each life is equal as valuable as the other life and I have taken that into consideration...".

The preacher had denied taking any part in the killings of Michael Schwerner, 24, Andy Goodman, 20, and James Chaney, 21.

Killen was tried in 1967 on federal charges of violating the victims' civil rights. But the all-white jury was deadlocked. Seven others were convicted, but none served more than six years.

Judge Gordon, was able to consider a presentencing report on Killen's finances, and a health report that the judge requested from Killen's doctors.

Killen uses a wheelchair because of a logging accident that broke both his legs in March.

Watch Edgar Ray Killen being sentenced

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