Michael Schwerner - James Chaney - Andrew Goodman

Date: 
Sunday, June 21, 1964

File No. DJ 144-41-686

U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Mississippi
Federal Bureau of Investigation

Investigation of the 1964 Murders of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney,
and Aandrew Goodman

I.          Introduction

     The Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice (Division) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), assisted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi (USAO), have completed their investigation into the June 21, 1964 murders of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, three volunteers in the civil rights movement working in Neshoba and Lauderdale Counties, Mississippi.  The investigation and this report are authorized by the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, 28 United States Code § 509 (Pub.L.110-344, 122 Stat. 3934) (Emmett Till Act).  This Emmett Till Act investigation focused on (1) whether sufficient admissible evidence currently exists to support further state prosecution against any surviving person for involvement in the murders; and (2) whether certain witnesses made recent federally prosecutable false statements to FBI agents.  We closely coordinated with Jim Hood, the Attorney General for the State of Mississippi, because of his prosecutive authority in this case.[1] 

     After considering all credible leads and exhausting all viable investigative tools, we have determined that no further federal investigation is warranted at this time.  Additionally, we have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support a prosecutable federal violation of any person under Title 18 United States Code § 1001, for willfully making material false statements to federal investigators.  In this report, we also convey our investigative findings to the Mississippi Attorney General for his consideration of whether there is sufficient evidence to support state criminal charges.

     At the outset, it should be acknowledged that nine individuals have been successfully prosecuted for these heinous crimes.  In the 1967 case of United States v. Price (Price), the Department’s Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights John Doar and his team of federal prosecutors convicted eight defendants – James Edward Jordan, Cecil Ray Price, Alton Wayne Roberts, Horace Doyle “H.D.” Barnette, Billy Wayne Posey, Jimmy Arledge, Jimmy Snowden, and Sam Holloway Bowers[2] – for violating the federal criminal civil rights conspiracy statute.[3]  In 2005, Mississippi Attorney General Hood and Neshoba County District Attorney Mark Duncan convicted Edgar Ray Killen of state manslaughter charges in Mississippi v. Killen (Killen). 

     Federal efforts over the past three years have been extensive and exhaustive.  When we began our Emmett Till Act investigation, five of the individuals believed to have been involved were still alive:  Killen (prosecuted in 2005), Richard Andrew Willis (died in July 2011), Olen Lovell Burrage (died in March 2013), __________________________________________________________ Department attorneys and FBI agents have (1) reviewed a massive number of relevant documents assembled over nearly fifty years (including elaborate FBI confidential source files and transcripts from two 1960s grand jury sessions); (2) examined voluminous records from the Mississippi investigation that led to the 2005 Killen prosecution; (3) interviewed all surviving, willing and competent, potential witnesses, often on multiple occasions; (4) sought voluntary information from subjects of the investigation; (5) evaluated and assessed several tangential allegations; (6) met with the victims’ families to seek their input; and, most significantly; (7) made extensive use of the full panoply of law enforcement investigative tools – non-prosecution agreements, covert activities, and other confidential investigative undertakings authorized by law but proscribed from public reporting, to include a federal § 1001 grand jury investigation.

     With the passage of fifty years, few persons with any direct knowledge of the facts relevant to the June 21, 1964 murders remain alive.  Most of the original cooperators and confidential sources are deceased.  Many of these elderly witnesses have understandably imperfect recollections.  Other witnesses are reluctant to provide information.  Some witnesses, despite comprehensive efforts – including pursuit of evidence to support federal prosecution for false statement (see discussion in Section VII.B.2) – to evoke truthful information from them, appeared to continue to conceal crucial relevant information.  These realities impacted the results of our investigation and current prospects of uncovering any further information useful for prosecutive purposes.

     Additionally, we provide in this report our analysis of the currently available evidence relevant to a state murder charge to assist the Mississippi Attorney General’s prosecutive decision.  We make no recommendation as to whether there is a prosecutable state murder charge.  Such decision is properly the exclusive province of state prosecuting authorities. 

     This report summarizes the information learned during this investigation, as well as relevant information from prior investigative and prosecutive work conducted by both federal and Mississippi authorities during the intervening fifty years since the murders.  We trust that our work will allow for state authorities to make a fully informed decision.  And, under the mandate of the Emmett Till Act, the Department and the FBI would continue to assist the state if it decides that the evidence is sufficient to support a state murder or other criminal prosecution.

II.        Factual Summary: 1964 Murders

     The following summary of facts is provided to assist in understanding the remainder of the report.  It relies heavily, but not exclusively, upon the public records of the Price and Killen trials, particularly the detailed confessions of convicted defendants Jordan and H.D. Barnette, and Jordan’s subsequent testimony in Price.  It should be noted that certain information related in this summary and elsewhere in this report, while instructive and illuminating, would be inadmissible in a future criminal trial, such as when a witness is deceased or is a protected confidential source,[4] and therefore unavailable to testify.  Additionally, where necessary in this report, certain facts are presented in a manner so as not to reveal the identity of a protected confidential source. 

     In the summer of 1964, promoted as “The Freedom Summer,” the Congress of Federated Organizations (COFO), one of the most active civil rights groups in Mississippi, planned a concentrated effort to register African Americans to vote.  Michael Schwerner, a twenty-four-year-old former New York social worker, was an established civil rights organizer with COFO working in and around Meridian and Philadelphia.   In 1964, Schwerner teamed up with James Chaney, a twenty-one-year-old African-American COFO volunteer from Meridian.  Together with Schwerner’s wife, Rita, they established a community center and organizing headquarters in Meridian.

     A Mississippi white supremacist organization, the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (Klan), was fiercely opposed to all forms of desegregation, especially voter registration efforts.  The Klan adopted violence to achieve its ends. 

     Schwerner was particularly reviled by the Klan for his work.  Indeed, the killing of Schwerner was a routine topic discussed at Klan meetings attended by both Meridian and Philadelphia Klansmen, but Klan orthodoxy prevented such action unless authorized by the state Klan leader.  Several weeks before the murders, state Klan leader Sam Bowers gave that authorization.

     On the evening of June 16, 1964, a large group of Meridian and Philadelphia Klansmen, including Klansmen later involved in the June 21 murders, attended a Klan meeting.[5]  The Klansmen discussed a reported gathering, thought to include civil rights workers, at the African-American Mount Zion Methodist Church in Neshoba County just outside of Philadelphia.  Schwerner and Chaney had visited that church and worked with its parishioners.  Several armed Klansmen left the Klan meeting and drove to the church looking for white civil rights workers.  Although no civil rights volunteers were present at the church, the Klansmen beat the African-American parishioners whom they encountered and returned later to burn down the church.  Afterwards, it was speculated by some Klansmen that the attack on the church might lure Schwerner back to Neshoba County.

     Schwerner and Chaney were in a COFO training program in Ohio when they learned about the assaults and arson.  Andrew Goodman, a twenty-year-old college student and new volunteer from New York, joined Schwerner and Chaney in leaving Ohio for Mississippi.  They arrived in Meridian by June 20, 1964. 

     On Sunday morning, June 21, 1964, the three civil rights volunteers left Meridian to visit with the victims of the Klan church attack near Philadelphia.  They drove a 1963 Ford station wagon with Mississippi tags registered to COFO.  The men spent the early afternoon in Longdale, an African-American community outside of Philadelphia where the church’s parishioners lived.  They spoke with various victims of the Klan attack and other members of the community.   

     At about 3 p.m., Neshoba County Deputy and Klan member Cecil Ray Price, who shared the Klan’s antipathy for COFO, pulled the three men over during their return to Meridian through Philadelphia.  Deputy Price recognized Schwerner and identified the station wagon as belonging to COFO.  He arrested the three men and took them to the Philadelphia jail.  He booked Chaney for speeding and held Schwerner and Goodman for investigation, ostensibly in connection with the church arson.  Price contacted Edgar Ray Killen, a Philadelphia minister and Klan leader, and advised him that Schwerner and the two other civil rights volunteers were in custody.  

     Killen saw an opportunity to punish the COFO workers.  Joined by two other men, he set out to Meridian to meet with Meridian Klan members.[6]   Killen sought help from Meridian because the Klan preferred to use non-local Klansmen to conduct acts of violence, minimizing the chance that a participant would be recognized by a victim or a witness. 

     Killen and his __________ arrived at Meridian’s Longhorn Restaurant, a Klan gathering place, at about 6 p.m.  Killen delivered the news to the Meridian Klan that Deputy Price was holding the arrestees in jail but could not detain them for long.  Killen appealed for Meridian Klansmen to come to Philadelphia to abduct and assault the arrestees when they were released from jail.  Killen announced that the civil rights workers “needed their asses tore up,” and instructed the Klansmen to get gloves and to bring guns to Philadelphia.

     To assist Killen, Meridian Klan leaders, including ___________________, made calls to recruit other Meridian Klansmen.  As their numbers grew, the Klansmen relocated from The Longhorn to the Akin’s Mobile Homes property, a Meridian business owned by a now deceased Klan leader.   Eventually, five recruited Meridian Klansmen – James Jordan, H.D. Barnette, Travis Maryn Barnette,[7] Jimmy Arledge, and Jimmy Snowden – armed with handguns and equipped with gloves, drove to Philadelphia in one car.  The three Philadelphia Klansmen, joined by Meridian Klansman Alton Wayne Roberts, drove separately to Philadelphia.  They reunited in downtown Philadelphia. _____ and __________ Meridian Klan leaders remained in Meridian and did not travel with the group to Philadelphia. Significant to our later investigation, no evidence suggests that ___________________________________________.

     Arriving in downtown Philadelphia after dark, the recruited Meridian Klansmen reconnected with Killen and the Philadelphia Klansmen, and they were joined by Philadelphia Klansman Billy Wayne Posey.  The Meridian Klan contingent parked on a street near the jail and the Philadelphia group assembled nearby waiting for notification that the civil rights workers had been released from jail.  Killen left the group, asking to be driven to a funeral home in Philadelphia to establish his alibi.     

     At about 10:30 p.m., Deputy Price told Chaney to pay a $20 fine and released the three men from the jail.  He told them to “see how quickly they could get out of Neshoba County,” and escorted them to their station wagon impounded near the jail.  The young men immediately drove from Philadelphia south on Highway 19 toward Meridian, the direct route home.   The waiting Klansmen were alerted when the three civil rights workers were released.  They immediately drove off in two separate cars following the victims’ station wagon.  Posey drove the Philadelphia Klansmen in his 1958 Chevrolet, and H.D. Barnette drove the Meridian Klansmen in his Ford.

     Price, driving his official patrol car, joined the two carloads of Klansmen at the outskirts of Philadelphia, and they all sped after the victims’ station wagon.  After a high-speed chase, Price caught up to the victims when they turned onto a roadway from Highway 19, in an apparent attempt to elude their pursuers.  Pulled over by Price, the three civil rights workers were forced into his patrol car.  The Klan convoy, with a Klansman now driving the victims’ station wagon, reversed direction on Route 19 and drove to an isolated location just off the highway on Rock Cut Road about ten miles south of Philadelphia. 

     Significantly, before the Klansmen overtook and abducted the victims, Posey’s Chevrolet had mechanical troubles.  Ultimately one man was left alone with Posey’s disabled car while the other Klansmen completed the murder plot.[8] 

     The three victims were quickly shot and killed alongside Rock Cut Road and their bodies were loaded into their own station wagon.  At least seven of the eight defendants convicted in Price (all now deceased) - Price, and Klansmen Roberts, H.D. Barnette, Arledge, Snowden, Jordan, and Posey - were at the murder scene.[9]   After loading the three bodies into the station wagon, Price returned to Philadelphia on Highway 19, while the rest of the group headed away from the highway on Rock Cut Road.  

     Posey immediately instructed the remaining Klansmen to follow him.  Posey drove the victim’s station wagon with the bodies in it, leading the other Klansmen in Barnette’s Ford along back roads to the Old Jolly Farm.  The farm was a property outside of Philadelphia owned by Olen Lovell Burrage.  The three bodies were buried by a bulldozer at Burrage’s Old Jolly Farm in an earthen dam then under construction at the farm.  Burrage was seen in a car with two other never-identified men near the dam site shortly before the bodies were buried.  He was later seen at Burrage’s “truck garage,” a trucking business office and warehouse that were across the street from Burrage’s home.  Burrage supplied gasoline from his gas pump for use to incinerate the victims’ station wagon later that night and Burrage also offered the use of one of his trucks for the mission.

     The Klansmen left the Burrage property between about 1:00 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. on June 22, 1964.  Someone drove the civil rights workers’ station wagon to a location on Highway 21 near Philadelphia and set it ablaze in a swampy area alongside the highway.  The rest of the group returned to Philadelphia.  Then, the Meridian Klansmen returned to Meridian.

III.       Initial Federal Investigation: 1964

            A.  Initiation of Federal Investigation

     Department of Justice attorneys were active during the summer of 1964 investigating and litigating voter registration cases throughout rural Mississippi and were thus working closely with COFO organizers.  When the three COFO volunteers failed to return as scheduled from their June 21 visit to Neshoba County to investigate the Mount Zion Church arson, a COFO representative called a Department attorney to report that the men were missing.  Local law enforcement officials in Lauderdale and Neshoba Counties had advised COFO that no persons of the victims’ description were being held.   The Department attorney alerted the FBI, which promptly sent a Meridian-based Special Agent to Philadelphia and opened a federal investigation into the victims’ disappearance.

     Price was confronted by the FBI on June 22, 1964. He admitted that the previous day he had arrested and jailed the three victims.  Price maintained, however, that after releasing the men that evening, he last saw them driving from downtown Philadelphia toward Meridian.  Price became a prime suspect after a review of records and the interviews of local law enforcement personnel and administrative staff could not account for Price’s whereabouts between 10:40 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on June 21.  Additionally, six days after the disappearance, a Knoxville reporter recorded an interview with a local Philadelphia man who claimed that Sherriff Rainey and others were bragging that the Klan had killed the young men and that Deputy Price had been involved.   This significant information was conveyed to the Goodman family attorney and the FBI. 

     The charred station wagon registered to COFO and driven by the victims was recovered in the swamp on June 23, 1964.  The discovery of the torched station wagon two days later suggested the victims were deceased rather than missing, and the investigative activity increased accordingly.  Quickly, the FBI moved massive FBI resources into Mississippi.  It established a new Jackson Field Office which coordinated a vast manhunt and investigation termed the “MIBURN” (Mississippi Burning) investigation.

     The federal investigation faced daunting challenges.  At best, persons with relevant information were reluctant to cooperate.  Many potential witnesses, including law enforcement officers, were deceitful and obstructionist.   False leads were deliberately planted, requiring unnecessary investigative attention.  Federal authorities were required to conduct the investigation independent of local and state law enforcement.

     The FBI conducted approximately 1000 interviews during the summer and fall of 1964.  The record demonstrates an enormous federal effort to locate the missing men and to identify those responsible for their disappearance.  Most importantly, the FBI developed a relatively complex internal security-type intelligence operation, utilizing local confidential sources and cooperators.  This effort depended upon infiltration, surveillance, and deception of the Klan.  Initially, only hearsay information was provided by already trusted state law enforcement officers or local civil rights advocates.  In time, rumors led to sources with personal knowledge of what had occurred and who was involved.  FBI special agents gained the trust and assistance of often begrudgingly cooperative Klansmen and local law enforcement officers (some of whom were also Klansmen) to act as confidential sources.  The FBI also skillfully instilled distrust among the Meridian/Philadelphia Klansmen.  

     Meanwhile, local law enforcement officials ostensibly conducted a parallel investigation.  Local spokespersons brazenly speculated that the three COFO volunteers had purposely disappeared in order to attract attention to their cause.  A local Coroner’s Jury was initiated.  Eventually, the local county prosecutor unsuccessfully subpoenaed FBI agents to a Neshoba County grand jury and expressed an intention to prosecute only those persons who were cooperating with federal authorities, but never initiated any such prosecutions.  More important, no state or local criminal charges were brought in the 1960s for the murders of the three civil rights workers. 

B.  Discovery of Bodies

     Initially, the federal investigative effort concentrated on a search for the bodies of the victims.  Enlisting the assistance of a large number of Navy personnel from the Meridian Naval Air Station, FBI agents first focused on the swampy area surrounding the charred station wagon.  The FBI conducted other searches for the bodies in other Neshoba County locations throughout the summer without success, until, in late July 1964, an informant provided accurate information about the location of the bodies.  That informant, who to this day remains anonymous, related that he knew from personal knowledge that the bodies had been buried in a dam on the Neshoba County farm owned by Olen Burrage and that the bodies were still buried there.[10]  Based on that disclosure, the FBI obtained a federal search warrant on August 3, 1964, to search the Old Jolly Farm outside of Philadelphia.

     Burrage, a native of Neshoba County, was well known in his community.  He owned several properties in Neshoba County, including the over 250 acre Old Jolly Farm, located about two miles from his home.  Burrage operated an interstate trucking business, located across the street from his home, which had over a dozen vehicles and employed a number of local men as drivers. 

     The next day on August 4, 1964, the FBI executed the search warrant.  When the FBI arrived on August 4, Burrage was compliant, insisting that he wished to cooperate fully.  Later that day, after several hours of excavation with heavy equipment and digging by hand at the newly completed dam, FBI agents discovered the three bodies.  When told of this discovery, Burrage claimed to have no knowledge of how they came to be buried on his land. 

     The FBI learned that Burrage had contracted in May 1964 to build the dam on the Old Jolly Farm.  He had hired several local men with bulldozers to construct an earthen dam structure to form a pond.  Two of the bulldozer operators, including now-deceased Price defendant Herman Tucker, maintained that they worked to build the dam until late afternoon on June 21, the day the civil rights workers disappeared.[11]  They claimed that they observed nothing unusual when returning to the job site the next Monday morning and that they had no further relevant information.  Neighbors who lived near the Old Jolly Farm also denied seeing or hearing anything unusual the evening of June 21.

C.  Further Confidential Source Information

     The FBI’s discovery of the bodies sent a clear message to the Klansmen involved in the murder and to their supporters that someone with direct knowledge of the events had revealed information to law enforcement.  A few days after the bodies were discovered, H.D. Barnette, abruptly moved his family back to his home state of Louisiana.  Meanwhile, the FBI continued its infiltration activities. 

     Sources identified other Meridian and Philadelphia Klansmen, the Klan leaders, the locations of Klan meetings, and what had been discussed at those meetings.  The FBI learned of pre-existing plans to conduct surveillance on Schwerner and other COFO workers, discussions about killing Schwerner, and additional facts about the events of June 21.  The FBI also conducted 24-hour surveillance of certain Klansmen.  

     Klan confidential source information accelerated in volume and improved in quality.  One early important FBI source, for example, Sergeant Carlton Wallace Miller (deceased), a Meridian police officer who later testified in Price, was first paid by the FBI beginning in September 1964.  He continued his relationship with the Klan while supplying information to the FBI.  Miller advised the FBI that he had helped establish the Meridian Klan group and related important hearsay and lead information.  This source and other sources proffered the names of Meridian and Philadelphia Klansmen likely involved in the murders.  Miller and a number of confidential sources received significant financial incentives and additional necessary financial support commiserate with their cooperation.

     In mid-October, James Jordan was interviewed by the FBI.  At that time, he denied having any relevant information or being a member of the Klan.  Jordan admitted knowing the specific Klansmen about whom he was questioned, but he claimed not to know whether the men were in the Klan.  Meanwhile, other confidential sources advised that the Meridian Klan had begun to suspect that Jordan was cooperating with the FBI and that he was furnishing the information that was actually being provided by other sources.  Later in October, Jordan disappeared from Meridian and FBI sources advised that suspicious, angry Klansmen were looking for him.  H.D. Barnette was still out of the state. 

D.  Jordan and Barnette

     The FBI located Jordan in Gulfport, Mississippi, and H.D. Barnette in Louisiana.  With limited options and resources, Jordan and H.D. Barnette elected to work with the federal authorities and, after successive interviews, provided detailed confessions discussed in depth in Section IV.

     When first approached by the FBI in Gulfport in late October, Jordan continued to deny that he was a Klansman, but, contrary to his previous interviews, he did offer the names of others who were in the Klan and suggested that those Klansmen might provide information to the FBI regarding Klan activities and the murders.  Later, Jordan claimed that he had heard about the details of the murders but he continued to deny any personal involvement.  Finally, on November 5, 1964, Jordan signed a lengthy statement detailing his personal account of the murders and the burial of the civil rights workers.  In subsequent interviews, Jordan furnished the FBI and Department prosecutors with more detail and clarification.

     Days after Jordan’s November 5 disclosure, an important detail of his account was corroborated by two highway patrolmen (both now deceased), providing greater confidence in Jordan’s overall account.[12]  When the FBI next approached H.D. Barnette in Louisiana, they were equipped with detailed information about the murders, and H.D. Barnette almost certainly realized that someone had already implicated him.  H.D. Barnette subsequently signed his own detailed confession on November 20, 1964.  Like Jordan, in subsequent interviews, H.D. Barnette expanded upon his signed confession, and clarified some of the details.  Jordan later pled guilty to federal charges and testified for the government, but H.D. Barnette stood trial in Price, despite his confession.

    The confessions of Jordan and H.D. Barnette generally corroborated each other’s account of the events of June 21, 1964, and the events that led to the murders.  Most specifically, both Klansmen agreed on the details related to seven defendants who were ultimately convicted in Price for pursuing, abducting and killing the victims.  Both men also related consistent information about Killen’s involvement in the planning of the murders.  Both provided inculpatory information related ___________ Burrage.   Jordan also specifically identified _______________________________________________________, which was consistent with H.D. Barnette’s recollection of _____________________________________________________________________________.

     Jordan additionally provided inculpatory information against state Klan leader Sam Bowers, the eighth defendant adjudged guilty in Price, who authorized the killings, but was not present at the murders. 

     But, it should be noted that there were several significant differences in the accounts provided by Jordan and H.D. Barnette.  Most significantly, Jordan claimed to be acting as a look-out at the time of the shootings, but H.D. Barnette stated that Jordan was the person who shot Chaney.  Further, although Jordan identified ____________ by his full name, Sharpe by his last name, and Tucker by his first name; H.D. Barnette, who was from Meridian, did not identify any of these three Philadelphia men by name. 

E.  Charging the 1967 Federal Prosecution

     In December 1964, federal criminal civil rights charges were filed in a criminal complaint in the Southern District of Mississippi and the charged defendants were arrested.  Thereafter, eighteen defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Mississippi on January 15, 1965, for violating Title 18 United States Code §§ 241 (Conspiracy Against Rights) and 242 (Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law).  The applicable federal criminal statutes were the two criminal civil rights statutes of the time.  In 1964, a § 241 conspiracy had a ten-year maximum sentence while a § 242 violation was a misdemeanor.

     The United States District Court ruled on several critical pre-trial motions in February 1965.  Favorably to the government, the Court ruled that the August 3, 1964 search warrant was valid under the Fourth Amendment, refusing to exclude evidence derived from the search of the Old Jolly Farm.  The defendants’ motion for separate trials was denied.  But, another ruling substantially delayed the federal prosecution.  The court granted the defense motion to dismiss the § 241 conspiracy and the substantive § 242 misdemeanor counts in the 1965 indictment against all defendants except Neshoba County Deputy Price and the other law enforcement defendants.  The dismissal caused an over two-year delay while the Department appealed. 

     Ultimately, the United States Supreme Court upheld the entire 1965 indictment in United States v. Price, 383 U.S. 786 (1966).  The Supreme Court held that all of the non-law enforcement defendants, the civilian Klansmen, could be prosecuted for violating §§ 241 and 242, if they conspired with and aided and abetted law enforcement officers who were acting under the color of law to deprive a person of life and liberty without due process of law, a right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

     In February 1967, nineteen defendants were indicted on a single § 241 conspiracy charge in a superseding indictment by another federal grand jury in the Southern District of Mississippi.  The number of indicted defendants changed to nineteen because one of the 1965 indicted defendants (Jimmy Lee Townsend, _____________________________________________________________________ was removed from the 1967 indictment _____________________________________________________ and two other defendants, state Klan leader Sam Bowers and former Neshoba County Sherriff Ethal Glenn “Hop” Barnette (to be distinguished from H.D. Barnette), were added.  Under this superseding 1967 indictment, the Department proceeded to trial in United States v. Price.

IV.       United States v. Price Evidence Summary

  1.  Overview

     The trial of United States v. Price was held in Meridian in the Southern District of Mississippi, commencing on October 9, 1967.  One hundred and fifty-one witnesses testified.  Approximately twenty percent of the witnesses presented the government’s evidence of the crime, while the remaining eighty percent of the witnesses offered character and alibi evidence for the defendants.  The jury returned its verdicts on October 20, 1967.

      The 1967 federal prosecution trial team focused its evidentiary presentation on those defendants who participated in the shooting deaths of the three victims and on the top Klan leadership, Mississippi Klan leader Bowers and Philadelphia Klan leader Killen.  All of the primary targeted defendants were convicted except for Killen.  Accordingly, the prosecution team concentrated less on the secondary defendants, who had helped arrange, facilitate, and organize the murders and the burials, but had not actually participated in the killing.  Given the available evidence and the political climate surrounding the trial, this strategy can hardly be faulted and proved largely successful.

     A mix of witnesses – civilians, local law enforcement officers and officials, FBI agents, and forensic experts – portrayed the victims and their activities for the jury, described the recovery of their vehicle and bodies, and identified the bodies.  Also among this first group of government witnesses were civilians, highway patrol officers, and jail personnel who established that Deputy Price arrested the three civil rights workers on the afternoon of June 21, 1964, detained them in the Philadelphia jail, and released them that evening.  African-American colleagues and the victims’ family members established that Schwerner and Chaney were in Mississippi working with the African-American community on voter registration efforts and were planning on using the Mt. Zion Methodist Church as a Freedom School.  After the church burned, the civil rights workers returned to investigate the burning, speaking with African-American victims.  Highway Patrol and Neshoba County jail personnel witnesses recalled the arrest, detention in the Philadelphia jail, and the release of the three civil rights workers on June 21, 1964.  Highway Patrolman Earl Robert Poe (deceased) testified that, sometime after 10 p.m. on Highway 19 just south of Philadelphia, Posey approached his patrol car and asked where Price was.

     As set forth further below, cooperating Klansmen Carlton Wallace Miller and Delmar Dennis thereafter testified about the defendants’ Klan affiliations and their targeting of Michael Schwerner.  James Jordan, who pled guilty and cooperated as a government witness, testified from personal knowledge regarding the events of June 21 after the three victims were released from the jail.  He also testified to state Klan leader Bowers’ approval of the murder.  Another witness, Joseph Michael Hatcher, provided testimony that repeated some of what Miller and Dennis provided to the jury and related a key admission by Killen.  The government’s case ended with H.D. Barnette’s confession, which was necessarily redacted to eliminate statements implicating other defendants in order to comply with the Sixth Amendment’s right to confront witnesses.  

     As previously noted, seven defendants – Price, Roberts, H.D. Barnette, Posey, Arledge, Snowden, and Bowers – were convicted of the federal criminal civil rights conspiracy.   Eight defendants – Burrage and Harris, as well as Bernard Akin, Travis Barnette, Herndon, Rainey, Tucker, and Willis – were found not guilty.  Mistrials were entered by the court after the jury could not agree as to three defendants, Killen, Sharpe and “Hop” Barnette. 

  1. Carlton Wallace Miller (deceased)

     Miller, now deceased, testified that he was a police officer in Meridian in 1964, and also a member of the Klan, sworn in by Killen, whom he had known most of his life.  He testified that he personally saw other defendants attending Klan meetings prior to June 21, 1964, including Harris, Akin and Herndon (Meridian Klan Chapter leaders), Killen and Bowers, and Roberts, Arledge, Snowden, and H.D. Barnette (all present at the killing) and H.D. Barnette’s brother Travis.  Miller also testified that he was present at the meeting when Harris was sworn into the Klan in April 1964. 

     Miller further testified that he attended a joint Philadelphia/Meridian Klan meeting at which the “elimination” of Schwerner was discussed, explaining that “elimination” was a Klan term for murder, and that all eliminations needed to be approved by the state Klan leader.  According to Miller, Killen and Herndon, who ran the particular meeting where elimination was discussed, represented to the group that Bowers, who was the state leader of the Klan in Mississippi, had approved the elimination of Schwerner.

     Miller testified that he had just returned to Meridian on June 21 from National Guard duty and thus learned nothing about the murders on the day they were committed.  However, after the murders, Miller had separate discussions with Killen, Herndon, and Akin, all of whom divulged certain aspects of the murders to him. 

     According to Miller’s testimony, Killen provided the most information about the events of June 21, explaining that the civil rights workers were chased in their car down Highway 19, then shot and buried in a dam about 15 feet deep.  According to Miller, Killen advised that the Klan burned a church to lure Schwerner to Philadelphia.  Killen also told Miller of his own involvement on the night of June 21, 1964, saying that when he received the news that the civil rights workers were arrested in Philadelphia, he traveled to The Longhorn Drive-in restaurant in Meridian to meet Herndon.  Together Killen and Herndon organized a group of Klansmen at the Longhorn to travel to Philadelphia. 

     Miller testified that Herndon told him a similar story about organizing Klansmen with Killen at the Longhorn, and that Akin provided a comparable report about the Klan burning the church to lure Schwerner to Philadelphia.  Miller also told the jury that on the day the FBI recovered the station wagon, Herndon said to Miller that “someone goofed up, that they were supposed to carry the car to Birmingham.”

     During the cross-examination of Miller regarding his motives, the defense raised the question of whether Miller provided information in order to obtain reward money.  Miller denied receiving reward money, but admitted that the FBI paid him $2,400 to remain as an informant in the Klan and to report what he witnessed.  Miller was also cross-examined on the reliability of his memory.

  1. Delmar Dennis (deceased)

     Another former Klansman, Delmar Dennis, also now deceased, corroborated much of Miller’s testimony.  Dennis testified that he was sworn into the Klan in March 1964 by Killen at the Cash Salvage store in Meridian, and that Harris, Roberts, and Herndon were present along with Killen.  Killen told Dennis at his swearing-in that the Klan “was an organization of action,” and that “elimination” meant killing.  Dennis testified about Klan meetings, secret codes, and Klan doctrine. 

     Dennis further testified that he attended three separate meetings in which the Klan discussed the elimination of Schwerner.  The first meeting was at Cash Salvage and the same defendants present at Dennis’s swearing-in were again present, along with Akin.  Dennis testified that Killen said that the elimination of Schwerner had been approved. 

     The second meeting took place in early May 1964, in Herndon’s trailer home.  There, Klan members discussed the fact that the elimination of Schwerner had been approved, but nothing had been yet done about it.  Dennis told the jury that Harris was present at this meeting. 

     The third Klan meeting took place at a gymnasium in Neshoba County.  During that meeting, it was announced that there was activity at the Mount Zion Church and that civil rights volunteers might be there.  Klan members left their meeting, assaulted the African-American parishioners at the church, and returned to report their actions.  According to Dennis, Harris was also present at this Neshoba County Klan meeting.

  Dennis was cross-examined regarding the money that he received from the government.  He admitted that he received $15,000 for his work as a confidential informant.

  1. Joseph Michael Hatcher

 
     A second Meridian police officer, also a Klansman, Joseph Michael Hatcher, testified and corroborated some of the testimony of Miller, Dennis and Jordan.  Hatcher testified that he had attended Klan meetings, including a meeting led by Killen and a meeting where it was discussed that civil rights workers “needed to be done away with.”
 
     Most significantly, Hatcher testified that on the afternoon after the murders, Killen spoke alone with Hatcher.  Killen told Hatcher that “the three had been taken care of,” the bodies were buried in an earthen dam, the car had been burned, and that Killen had established an alibi at a funeral home.  

  1.  James Jordan (deceased)

     James Jordan was perhaps the most critical government witness because he provided a narrative of what happened on June 21, 1964, from personal knowledge.  He testified that he was an early member of the Meridian Klan, and was brought into the Klan by Miller.  On June 21, he went to The Longhorn Drive-In and Harris and Herndon were present at the Longhorn when he arrived.

     Jordan testified that Killen arrived at The Longhorn from Philadelphia.  According to Jordan, a Philadelphia Klansman, whom he knew only by his last name, Sharpe (acquitted defendant Jerry McGrew Sharpe), drove Killen to The Longhorn __________________________________________ the other two Klansmen. [13] 

     Jordan told the jury that Killen spoke with Herndon upon arrival at the Longhorn.  After speaking with Herndon, “he” (it is unclear from the testimony whether “he” is Herndon or Killen) solicited “some help on over in Neshoba County” and “some men to go with him” because “two or three of those civil rights workers were locked up and they needed their rear ends tore up.”  Jordan also testified that one of the civil rights workers was Schwerner.

     When asked what action the men took in response to Killen’s request for assistance, Jordan responded, “we started calling them on the telephone trying to line up some more men to go with us.”  Notably, Jordan identified Harris as one of the men making those telephone calls to recruit other Meridian Klansmen and that Harris had a particular Klan job as “an Investigator.”

     As the group grew in numbers, Jordan testified that it moved from The Longhorn to Akin’s Mobile Homes, Bernard Akin’s business.  During the move between Klan locations, Jordan rode with Killen and Sharpe in either Harris’ car or in the Philadelphia Klansmen’s car.  Jordan added at this point that Harris was known to him by the nickname “Pete.”

     Jordan testified that once the group assembled at Akin’s Mobile Homes, Killen said that they would need six or seven men.  Killen sent Jordan to pick up Roberts and to buy rubber gloves.  Killen told Jordan to find gloves at Warner’s grocery store.[14]  Jordan testified that Harris was present at Akin’s Mobile Homes, but he did not relate what Harris did, said or might have witnessed while there.  Jordan testified that Killen said “we” had to hurry to get the three civil rights workers who were “locked up” and “pick them up” at “the outskirts of town” [Philadelphia] and “tear their butts up.”  Jordan testified that, when the group left Meridian for Philadelphia, Harris did not join them.[15] 

     Later in his testimony, Jordan told of an earlier important conversation between Harris and state Klan leader Bowers.  Jordan testified that in May 1964, he went with Harris to meet with Bowers at a restaurant outside of Laurel, Mississippi (Bowers’ hometown).  At that meeting, Bowers said to Jordan and Harris that Schwerner “was a thorn in the side of everyone living, especially the white people and that he should be taken care of.”  Jordan testified that a third man, “Akin’s son,” was present at the Laurel meeting.”[16]   Jordan also told the jury that he and Harris met again with Bowers about a month after the murders.  At that subsequent meeting, Bowers told Jordan and Harris that “the best thing to do was not to talk about it, that everything was well done, it was a job to be proud of, if there were any instruments involved they were to be gotten rid of.”

     Jordan’s testimony was most explicit about what occurred after leaving Meridian on the evening of June 21, 1964.  He testified that Killen left first, along with defendants Roberts and Sharpe, because “he had to get on back there fast as he could and to make the arrangements.”   Thereafter, Jordan traveled to Philadelphia, with Meridian Klansmen Arledge, Snowden, H.D. Barnette and his brother Travis.  They met Killen in Philadelphia where Killen showed them the jail and instructed them where to wait until the civil rights workers were released.  At this time, Jordan testified that another Barnette brother, known to him as “Hop” [former Neshoba County Sherriff Ethal “Hop” Glenn Barnette (Hop)], met them, told them someone else would come to instruct them, and left.[17]

     Jordan testified that Killen was taken to a Philadelphia funeral home to establish an alibi.  Thereafter, a police car approached the Meridian Klan car and a Philadelphia city policeman reported that the three civil rights workers had been released from jail and were driving on Highway 19.  Jordan failed at trial to name or identify acquitted defendant Richard Andrew Willis ______________________________________________________.

     Jordan testified that Posey, Roberts, Sharpe, and another Philadelphia man were all in a second car (Posey’s Chevrolet).  The two cars were joined by defendant Price in his patrol car when those three cars left Philadelphia on Highway 19.  According to Jordan, as the cars drove to catch up to the victims, Posey’s car broke down.  Jordan testified that Roberts and Posey, and then Sharpe, abandoned Posey’s car and rejoined the group. Of significance to our later investigation,   ____________________________________________________________ .[18]                

     Jordan testified that when Deputy Price caught up to and stopped the three civil rights workers after they turned off Highway 19, he ordered them out of their station wagon and into his patrol car.  Posey then got into the driver’s seat of the station wagon and followed Price as they drove back toward Philadelphia.  

     The cars then turned onto a gravel road (Rock Cut Road) off Highway 19.  Jordan testified that he got out of the car to be a lookout before it drove up the gravel road.  According to Jordan, he heard the sound of car doors slamming, loud talking, and then gunshots.  Jordan then testified he walked up the road toward the noise and saw the victims lying beside the gravel road.   Jordan testified that the bodies were loaded into the victims’ station wagon and Posey then stated, “Just follow me; I know where we’re going.”  Jordan testified that Price, Posey, Roberts, Arledge, Snowden, H.D. and Travis Barnette, and Sharpe were all present at the shooting.  

     Jordan testified that, following Posey, the cars then drove to a dam site, where they “opened the back of the station wagon, took the boys out, and took them down in this hollow” where there were two bulldozers.   Posey sent Jordan back up the road to listen for the bulldozer operator, who was not there yet.  Snowden told Jordan that he had seen a man who must be the operator and then they heard the bulldozer “crank up.”  Jordan heard the machine working for about twenty minutes.   Jordan added that Posey told them that the bulldozer operator would take care of the station wagon, claiming that “Herman” (acquitted defendant Herman Tucker) would take the victims’ car to Alabama and burn it. 

     Jordan testified that he next went to a “warehouse and office building and gas pump.” There, Jordan saw a man that he had never seen before, whose photograph he had thereafter viewed.  Asked to identify the man, Jordan pointed to “a gentleman sitting next to Mr. Price” in the courtroom.  Presumably, Jordan pointed to Burrage, rather than to another defendant.  Otherwise, one would expect Burrage’s counsel to have informed the jury about a misidentification.  However, the record does not reflect to whom Jordan pointed.[19]

     Jordan was vigorously cross-examined regarding the accuracy of his account and confronted with his prior inconsistent statements about various issues in addition to a possible confusion of Sharpe for Townsend.  He was impeached by a prior inconsistent statement in which Jordan did not indicate that Travis Barnette went to Philadelphia with the other defendants.[20]  He was further impeached by a prior inconsistent statement in which he named an officer other than Willis as the Philadelphia policeman who delivered the message that the victims’ had been released.  After presenting a self-serving characterization of the money paid by the FBI, Jordan admitted a $3,000 one-time payment and weekly payments from $25 to $100 by the FBI.  Jordan was inconsistent in his willingness to admit parts of his substantial criminal record that included fraudulent conduct.

  1. H.D. Barnette (deceased)

     The Price trial concluded with a trial exhibit – H.D.  Barnette’s redacted November 20, 1964 confession.  As previously discussed, H.D. Barnette’s unredacted confession was largely corroborative of Jordan’s testimony.  However, because H.D. Barnette was a defendant and did not take the stand, in order to comply with the Sixth Amendment right to confrontation, the names of H.D. Barnette’s codefendants as well as any language that might identify any of them were redacted from the version of the confession introduced at trial.  However, because Jordan testified for the government at trial, references to him were not redacted – a fact that focused attention on the glaring difference between Jordan’s account of his own conduct (lookout) versus H.D. Barnette’s recounting of it (shooter). 

     Because of redactions, the trial exhibit version of H.D. Barnette’s confession was incomplete and confusing (for the reader’s aid the redacted names and information are included inside brackets):

[Travis Barnette] called [Arledge] at his house and said “the Klan had a job” to do and [Arledge] asked H.D. Barnette to go.   They went to Meridian [specifically Akin’s Mobile Homes] and were met there by Jordan and [Killen, Bernard Akin and Roberts].

[Killen] told H.D. Barnette and the others that the three civil rights workers would be released from jail; they would catch them and give them a whipping.  H.D. Barnette drove in his car with Jordan and [Arledge and Snowden] to Philadelphia.  When they arrived in Philadelphia, [Killen] said that there was a “place to bury them,” and “a man to run the dozer to cover them up.”  According to H.D. Barnette that was the first time that he understood the civil rights workers would be killed.

     The description of the car chase, the abduction, the journey to Rock Cut Road, and the events after the shooting of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman in H.D. Barnette’s confession, while generally consistent with Jordan’s testimony, are considerably less persuasive after redaction.  Of particular note, the description of the events surrounding the break-down of Posey’s Chevrolet is completely redacted from the trial exhibit, thus there is no reference to “someone from Philadelphia” (Townsend) left behind.

As to the shooting itself, H.D. Barnette’s redacted confession recounted that:

[Roberts] pulled Schwerner from the car, spun him around, and asked, “Are you that nigger lover?”  Schwerner replied, “Sir, I know just how you feel.”  With his left hand on Schwerner’s shoulder, [Roberts] raised a pistol in his right hand and shot Michael Schwerner.  He then turned toward the patrol car and pulled out Andrew Goodman, and shot Andrew Goodman. 

Jordan said, “Save one for me.”  Jordan got Chaney out of the car.  As Chaney backed up toward the ditch on the side of the road, Jordan was standing in the middle of the road facing Chaney.  Jordan shot James Chaney, and then said, “You didn’t leave anything but a nigger, but at least I killed me a nigger.” 

     Also redacted from the confession was H.D. Barnette’s affirmation that the dam was “on Burrage’s property.”  Additionally, the redactions excised the activity at the dam site, including that H.D. Barnette saw Burrage and two other men in a car near the dam.  Similarly, because of the redactions, Burrage is not identified as the person who provided the gas to burn the victims’ car.  Thus, H.D. Barnette’s redacted confession made no reference to Burrage, his conduct, or the killers’ presence at his business.

     H. D. Barnette’s unredacted confession also related that when the killers returned to Philadelphia after the murders, Neshoba County Sheriff Rainey warned them that anyone who talked would be killed.  That information, too, was redacted.

  1.  Defense Witnesses

      As previously indicated, the defendants’ witnesses far outnumbered the government witnesses – by approximately four to one.  They provided alibi and character testimony for all the defendants.  Particularly germane to the recent “Emmett Till Act” investigation, defendants Harris and Burrage presented the following witnesses in their defense. 
 
     Burrage called eleven witnesses in total.  The combined testimony of the first eight witnesses explained that defendant Burrage hosted relatives and friends at his home during the afternoon on June 21.  According to the witnesses, Burrage then attended church services in the early evening.  At about 8:30 p.m., Burrage’s witnesses testified that he traveled to the home of his sister-in-law, Ruby Davis, in downtown Philadelphia to pick her up and bring her back to his home.   Mrs. Davis and Burrage’s wife testified that Burrage did not thereafter leave the Burrage home that evening and that, in fact, Burrage was at home on the telephone speaking with Ruby Davis’ husband at about 1:00 a.m.[21]  The remaining three witnesses called by Burrage testified that he enjoyed a good reputation in the community.
 
     Harris called four witnesses, including his brother, Clarence Harris.  Harris’s brother testified that Harris came to his home on the afternoon of June 21, and worked with him on a car until about 8:30 or 9:00 p.m.  Harris’s other three witnesses testified that he enjoyed a good reputation in the community.

  1. Price Trial Conclusion

     Jury deliberations concluded on October 20, 1967, with the seven guilty verdicts previously mentioned.  The District Court imposed the legal maximum ten-year prison sentence on two defendants – Roberts, one of the shooters, and Bowers, the state Klan leader who authorized the killings.  The other convicted defendants were sentenced to shorter terms of incarceration – Price and Posey were sentenced to six years; and Arledge, H.D. Barnette and Snowden were sentenced to three years.  Jordan, who testified for the government and was, according to H.D. Barnette’s confession the other shooter, pled guilty and was sentenced to a four-year prison term.  The defendants, who are all now deceased, began to serve their sentences in 1970 when their appeals were exhausted.[22]

V.        2000 Price/Posey Proffers and State Murder Investigation

     This matter was revived in 2000, initially because of new information obtained from Cecil Price before his death.  After completing his term of federal incarceration, Price returned to the Philadelphia area and worked at various different jobs, including employment with Burrage’s Trucking Company.  In the 1990s, he began working as an independent third party Commercial Drivers License (CDL) Examiner, conducting road driving tests for persons attempting to obtain their CDL.  Price was caught selling passing test results for personal profit without actually performing the road test. 

     Because Price’s fraudulent scheme involved the filing of false federal government forms with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (CDLs come under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Transportation), he was charged with violating Title 18 United States Code § 1001, false statements.  After he pled guilty on December 6, 1999, he was sentenced to three years of probation in February 2000 in return for his agreement to cooperate with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office by providing information about the 1964 murders of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman.

     In the summer of 2000, Price proffered information during interviews with the Mississippi Attorney General’s investigators and attorneys.  Price said he advised Killen of the arrest through Posey.  Later, Killen called Price after dark and told him to come to Jolly’s car lot in downtown Philadelphia.  There, Price heard Killen tell a group of Meridian Klansmen that Price would release the victims, who would be stopped by highway patrol officers on their way back to Meridian and turned over to the Meridian Klansmen.

     Price admitted in the proffer that he later agreed to stop the victims after releasing them from jail and did so.  He insisted that he thought they would only be beaten.  Price confirmed that a car broke down during the chase and speculated that it was Posey’s car.  He identified Roberts, Jordan, Posey, Arledge, Snowden, and H.D. Barnette as present at the murder scene.  He corroborated H.D. Barnette’s contention that the shooters were Roberts and Jordan, adding that most of the individuals present had guns.

     Price stated that Killen gave the order to release the “boys” from custody, organized the group, set up the meeting at the car lot, and then attended a wake for his uncle at a funeral home to create an alibi.  Price said he later learned from Killen that Killen knew the victims were buried in a dam at a pond.

     In May 2001, Price died after falling from a piece of heavy equipment while working in Neshoba County.  Rumors that Price’s death was not accidental have never been confirmed.

In the spring and summer of 2000, State authorities approached all the other surviving Price defendants and many witnesses.  Most of them – ___________ Arledge, Snowden, Sharpe, and ____________ – gave general denials when interviewed, claiming to have no information about the murders.  Burrage complained of chest pains and went to the hospital.  Bowers claimed the only thing he knew about the murders was what he read in the newspapers. 

     Posey also proffered information to the Mississippi Attorney General.  At the same time, Posey insisted that his memory was faulty regarding a number of key facts.  He confirmed that Price sought out Killen through Posey so that Killen could get a group together to beat the victims.  He claimed that someone whom he could not remember contacted him later on June 21 and told him to go to Jolly’s car lot.  Another person whom he claimed to be unable to remember told the waiting group that the victims had been released. 

      Posey stated that he drove with Sharpe in his car south on Highway 19 following the victims.   After his car broke down, he got into the victim’s station wagon which had already been stopped.  Posey said the station wagon was being driven by a Meridian Klansman, whom he claimed he did not know.  According to Posey, the victims were shot while he was still inside their station wagon.  He identified Price, Jordan, Roberts, H.D. Barnette and Sharpe as present at the shooting scene.  After the shooting, he heard Jordan say “killed me a nigger.”

     After the bodies were loaded back in the station wagon, Posey related that he drove with Sharpe and Jordan.  He stated that Jordan said that the group was going to Burrage’s pond where they had a bulldozer.  He stated that Jordan was at the dam and that he and Sharpe then drove to Burrage’s nearby trucking company, where they reconnected with Jordan.

     Posey’s memory was self-serving as to his own conduct.  With the exception of Sharpe and Jordan, he related little of substance about the conduct of, or, in some cases, even the names of, anyone then still alive.  Specifically,   _____________________________________________________________________or that Burrage was at the dam site and at Burrage’s trucking company.  Additionally, Posey maintained that he could not remember whether he saw Killen and Price at Jolly’s Car Lot. 

     Most incredible was Posey’s contention that Jordan, not he (Posey), was the one who led the group to Burrage’s dam.  Jordan, who was from Meridian, was far less familiar with the Philadelphia area than Posey.  Posey had a business relationship with Burrage at the time in the small rural town of Philadelphia where they were both life-long residents.  Also, Posey had ample motive to falsely implicate Jordan, who had betrayed the Klan and testified in the federal trial against Posey and his codefendants. 

     Over the next few years, the Mississippi Attorney General and District Attorneys who had jurisdiction over the murders, with assistance from the FBI, were able to supplement previously known evidence with sufficient new evidence (discussed below) to support a state murder indictment.  In January 2005, a Mississippi grand jury indicted Killen with three counts of murder.  Despite Posey’s self-serving, but still incriminating, proffer the grand jury did not also indict Posey, who died in 2009.  Nor were any of the other potential then-surviving subjects indicted.  Arledge and Snowden died in 2008, after Killen was convicted.  

VI.       Mississippi v. Killen Evidence Summary

     State prosecutors in Mississippi tried Edgar Ray Killen for the murders of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman, beginning on June 13, 2005, in Neshoba County.  The trial lasted for eight days, and on June 21, 2005 (41 years to the day of the murders), a Neshoba County jury convicted Killen, a lifelong resident of Neshoba County, on three counts of manslaughter. 

     The case focused on the role of Edgar Ray Killen in planning and facilitating the killings and secret burial of the bodies.  The most incriminating evidence against Killen came in the form of recorded testimony from the Price trial.  Carlton Wallace Miller, Delmar Dennis, and James Jordan, had all died by 2005, but prosecutors introduced their testimony from the Price trial as it related to Killen’s involvement in the murders. 

     The state also called two surviving FBI Special Agents.   One testified that he was one of the agents who recovered the burned station wagon; he identified photos of the car and the recovery scene.  Another testified that he was one of the agents present when the bodies were recovered in the earthen dam; he identified the photos of the victims’ bodies at the burial scene. 

     Joseph Michael Hatcher, who testified in the Price trial, testified again, and was more valuable to the government in the Killen trial.  Hatcher’s testimony was consistent with his testimony four decades earlier, but he provided greater detail regarding Killen’s incriminating statements regarding the killing and burial of the victims.  Hatcher additionally testified that Killen gave him a handgun the day after the murders and asked him to return the gun to the man who had given the gun to Killen.  Hatcher added further that Killen boasted that the FBI would not be able to trace any telephone calls to him because he travelled to Meridian to gather Klan volunteers rather than making telephone calls. 

     The state also called Mike Winstead, who testified that as a ten-year-old boy he overheard his grandfather speaking with Killen.  Specifically, he heard his grandfather ask Killen whether he had “anything to do with those boys being killed.”  According to Winstead, Killen replied, “Yes,” and that he was “proud of it.”

     Family members of each of the victims also testified to their loss.  Schwerner’s widow testified that COFO’s civil rights organizing efforts were not welcomed by many in the community, and that she and Schwerner had previously been threatened.

     Killen offered five witnesses in his defense.  His brother and sister each testified that Killen was present at a family event until 4:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. on June 21, 1964.  Killen’s brother, Kenneth Killen, further testified that he saw Killen later that evening between 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. at a funeral home.  The defense called David Winstead to testify, and he offered that he believed his brother, Mike Winstead, was lying about hearing the conversation between Killen and his grandfather.  Killen’s remaining two witnesses each testified that Killen enjoyed a good reputation in the community.

     The jury found Killen guilty on three counts of manslaughter.  Thereafter, the court sentenced Killen to twenty years for each count, to be served consecutively for a total of sixty years.  Killen remains incarcerated in the Mississippi prison system. The state trial against Killen produced no new evidence against Willis, Burrage, ___________________________________.

VII.     Federal “Emmett Till Act” Investigation Summary: 2010 through 2016   

  1. Emmett Till Act Investigation Overview

     Our goal with the federal Emmett Till Act investigation was ultimately to assist the Mississippi Attorney General by seeking additional admissible evidence against persons potentially prosecutable under the state murder statute.  Beginning in 2010, we initiated a careful review of the massive federal MIBURN file, particularly its confidential source files.  Later, we also reviewed the state’s investigative files from the late 1990s/early 2000s, which led to Killen’s conviction in 2005.  We searched the files with a focus on identifying the universe of known witnesses, as well as other potential witnesses who had not previously been interviewed, or not fully or robustly interviewed.   Additionally, we searched for witnesses who might help resolve the credibility of witnesses who might be concealing relevant facts.  We further examined potential leads and rumors proffered by non-governmental sources.  The FBI thereafter expended considerable effort determining which potential subjects and witnesses were alive and which were deceased.  Next, surviving persons had to be physically located. 

     The FBI determined that only five of the individuals originally identified as participants in the murder conspiracy remained alive in 2010 – Willis (who died in July 2011), Burrage (who died in March 2013), Killen,_______________________________________.  As previously indicated, Killen was successfully prosecuted by the state in 2005 for his role in the murders.  Regarding the remaining four subjects, we suspected the following:  Willis was alleged to have notified the Klan killers that the victims were being released from jail;  Burrage owned the land on which the victims were buried and allegedly assisted with their burial and the disposal of the car;  _______________________________________________________________________________.  

     The FBI, often along with Department attorneys, interviewed or attempted to interview every living, competent witness and potential defendant who could be located.  Additionally, witnesses who might have information relevant to the credibility of other witnesses were also interviewed.   Witnesses who purportedly had competency deficiencies were personally contacted to corroborate the reported mental condition.  Some witnesses were re-interviewed several times and vigorously confronted with information that suggested they were not completely forthright.    In certain cases, we obtained additional relevant information from reluctant witnesses.  We followed every lead to its logical conclusion and queried every potential witness until we were satisfied that we had attained the full extent of their knowledge and willingness to cooperate.

     Additionally, beginning in 2011, the FBI commenced several covert operations aimed at discovery of information relevant to the murders.  These covert operations targeted the individuals believed to have knowledge of the murders and were conducted at various times during the course of the investigation under the supervision of Department attorneys and, in one case, pursuant to a sealed federal district court order.  While the covert operations revealed some relevant information, they produced neither inculpatory admissible evidence against any subject, nor any reliable, credible exculpatory evidence.  We have shared the substance of that information with the Mississippi Attorney General. 

     As set forth in detail below, we questioned the veracity of the statements that certain witnesses made to the FBI in 2010-11, within the statute of limitations.  Accordingly, we utilized a federal grand jury to investigate violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1001.  For § 1001 subjects, the knowledge that they were subjects of a federal grand jury investigation could strengthen their concern that federal prosecution was a reality and might thereby motivate truthfulness.  Grand jury also permits testimony under oath from subject witnesses and from witnesses with information that might bear on the truthfulness of statements by the § 1001 subjects.   Additionally, truthful information relevant to material false statements could have collateral value to the murder investigation.  Finally, if false material statements, which were supported by sufficient evidence to bring prosecution, were made in this important federal investigation, federal prosecution would be warranted.

  1. Legal Authority, Issues, and Limitations
  1. Murder

     As mentioned previously, because the federal statute of limitations on the then existing and applicable federal criminal civil rights statutes was five years, any federal prosecution for these offenses is time-barred.[23]   Nonetheless, the United States properly reopened the investigation into the murders pursuant to the Emmett Till Act, which specifically authorizes the federal investigation of unresolved criminal civil rights violations that occurred not later than December 31, 1969 and resulted in death.  The Attorney General, through the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, and the Director of the FBI are obligated to “expeditiously investigate unsolved civil rights murders . . .  [and] provide all the resources necessary to ensure timely and thorough investigations in the cases involved.”   The Act further encourages the federal government to coordinate with state and local law enforcement, and to refer cases to state and local prosecutors for evaluation of prosecution under state laws.  Thus, our investigation was primarily aimed at seeking evidence that might support a state murder charge.  As noted above, we have shared all relevant information with the Mississippi Attorney General for his review and assessment. 

  1.  False Statements

     We also explored whether several material witnesses in our investigation may have committed more recent federal crimes – within the statute of limitations – for willfully providing material false information to the FBI in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001.

     18 U.S.C. § 1001 makes it a crime when a person “in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully makes any material false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation.”  Id. at § 1001(a)(2).  The term “false, fictitious, or fraudulent” means that the statement “must have a natural tendency to influence, or be capable of affecting or influencing a government function.”  United States v. Shah, 44 F.3d 285, 288 n.4 (5th Cir. 1995) (quoting United States v. Markham, 537 F.2d 187, 196 (5th Cir. 1976)).  The government agency need not have actually been misled, id., but “the concealment ‘must simply have the capacity to impair or pervert the functioning of a government agency.’”  United States v. Swaim, 757 F.2d 1530, 1534 (5th Cir. 1985) (quoting United States v. Lichenstein, 610 F.2d 512, 514 n. 5 (5th Cir. 1980)).

     The elements necessary to establish a violation of § 1001 applicable to these facts are:

  1. whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States;
     
  2. knowingly and willfully;
     
  3. makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation.

     Interviews conducted by the FBI in an Emmett Till Act investigation are within the jurisdiction of the executive branch because Congress has charged the FBI with conducting such investigations.  To establish beyond a reasonable doubt that a material statement is false, the government must prove that the contradictory facts are true.  Obviously, an investigation of whether witnesses in this case made material false statements overlapped the effort to seek material facts probative of the murders.  Thus, many of the same difficulties facing our Emmett Till Act murder investigation confronted the investigation of § 1001 violations.  Unlike the murders, barred from federal prosecution by the statute of limitations, recent material false statements are prosecutable federal offenses that a federal grand jury could properly investigate.  In the end, as discussed below in the summaries for the relevant .

  1. Emmett Till Act Investigation Witnesses

     We interviewed and, in some cases, re-interviewed surviving witnesses with the ultimate goal of obtaining additional information that might build a prosecutable state murder case against a surviving subject.  Some witnesses had not been interviewed in prior investigations.  Most witnesses had previously been interviewed and were re-interviewed in an effort to ensure that they revealed all relevant information, especially information that we suspected might have been withheld in the past.  Some witnesses were interviewed more than once or under proffer agreements or given polygraph examinations.  All reasonable efforts were taken to induce complete candor from witnesses to determine whether further state prosecution was warranted, as well as to determine whether there were prosecutable federal § 1001 violations.   

  1. Individuals with Indirect Knowledge Regarding the Murders
    1. __________ Source

      The Emmett Till Act investigation initially produced some fresh evidence in December 2010, when the FBI case agent and a Department attorney interviewed a newly discovered source, who lived in _____________________ and is now_____________________________________Mississippi.  The __________  Source had a close relationship with ________ during the summer of 1964.  The __________ Source had never been previously interviewed and we believed that __________ might have revealed relevant information to the source.  In fact, we learned __________________________________ .

     The witness would not acknowledge a relationship_________________ until promised that the source’s identity would not be publicly revealed, unless and until the source was needed as a witness in a criminal trial.   Even then, the source initially denied knowledge of anything related to the murders.  In March 2011, after persistent questioning, the __________ Source admitted concealing information from the FBI.  The __________ Source signed a written statement that ___________________________________________________________ .

     This information is consistent with prior information ___________________________.  Significantly, __________________________________________. 

     The _______ Source appears credible, given the nature of ____________________________________________________________.

___________________________________________________________________________________ .

b.  ___________ Source

     In the fall _____________, we re-connected with ______________________________________  an FBI confidential source since 1964.  The _________________ Source has demonstrated excellent mental acuity, good physical health, has been consistent, and, appears to be candid.  However, the FBI promised that the source’s identity would be protected in order to gain his cooperation in the ____________________________________________________ . 

     In __________ the ___________ Source related information that was consistent with his 1960s reports to the FBI.  Most significantly, _____________________________ .

     ______________________________________________________________________ .

     As discussed later, the __________ Source’s primary value to the investigation was the information about _______________________________________________________________  leading Klan meetings at his own business establishment before the murders and knew him to be friends with _______ (see discussion of Meridian Klansman in Section VII.C.1.d.). 

     The source appears authentic and reliable.  However, the __________ Source has never ______________________________ .

  1. ________________________________________

     _______________________________________________________________________________ .    

     ______________________________________________________________________________. 

     ___________________________________________________________ .

     ______________________________________________________________________________ .

  1. The __________________

     The investigation revealed that in the 1960s the _______________________________ . 

     On _____________________ the FBI interviewed __________________________________ . 

     ______________________________________________________________________________ . 

     ____________________________________________________________________________ . 

     _____________________________________________________________________________ . 

     ____________________________________________________________________________ .

     _________________________________________________________________________ . 

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     ________________________________________________________________________ .

     ________________________________________________________________________ .

     ________________________________________________________________________ .

  1. Witnesses with Direct Knowledge of Murders/Murder Plan
    1. ________________________________

    At the outset of the Emmett Till Act investigation, it appeared from all available information that  ___________________ specifically, _________________________.[24]

     __________________________________________________________________________ .   

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     _______________________________________________________________________________. 

     __________________________________________________________________________ .   

     __________________________________________________________________________ .  

     On _______________________ the FBI interviewed ____________________________ .  

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________ . 

      __________________________________________________________________________ . 

      __________________________________________________________________________ . 

     __________________________________________________________________________ .  

  1. _________________

         As previously noted,  ___________________________________________________ .

      __________________________________________________________________________ .   

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________ .   

     ______________________________. [25]  _____________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________ . 

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________ . 

     __________________________________________________________________________ . 

  1. Edgar Ray Killen

     We contacted the attorney representing Edgar Ray Killen in October 2012 to seek his client’s cooperation.  We advised that a reduction in sentence was unlikely, but we suggested that it was worth discussing the possibility and advantages of federal custody for his client should Killen provide information useful to the investigation.  We asked for an opportunity to meet with Killen to talk about his potential cooperation. 

     Killen’s attorney contacted his client and responded that Killen advised that he knew nothing about the 1964 murders and that he was unwilling to meet with us.  Killen’s attorney further advised that nothing, not even a potential nominal state sentence reduction, would alter his client’s position.  A November 2012 letter to Killen’s attorney memorialized his rejection of our offer.  Based upon Killen’s consistent denials for the past 50 years that he has any knowledge regarding the murders and the current representations of his attorney that nothing will alter Killen’s position, we concluded that further efforts regarding Killen would not be fruitful.

  1. Attempts to Develop Evidence Through Recently Identified Witnesses
    1. _________________

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________ . 

  1. _________________

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

  1. ____________ Sources

     __________________________________________________________________________ . 

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

  1. _________________

 
     The FBI interviewed ________________________________________________________ .

  1. ___________________________

     __________________________________________________________________________ .
  

  1. Attempts to Develop New Evidence Through Previously Identified Witnesses
    1. _____________________

     __________________________________________________________________________ . 

      __________________________________________________________________________ .

  1. _____________________________ Witnesses

     __________________________________________________________________________ . 

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________ . 

  1. ________________

     The FBI visited ____________________________________________________________ .

  1. Additional ___________ Source

     An additional surviving ________________________________________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________ . 

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

  1.  Emmett Till Act Investigation/ Subjects

      As previously discussed, we considered ______ individuals alleged to have participated in the events related to the murders as the initial subjects of our Emmett Till Act investigation.  __________________________ .

  1. ____________________________

     __________________________________________________________________________ . 

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

  1.  Olen Lovell Burrage

     Olen Lovell Burrage denied knowledge of the murders when the FBI executed the warrant to search the Old Jolly Farm back in 1964.  Later, when state investigators attempted to interview him in 2000, Burrage went to a local hospital with heart attack symptoms. 

In November 2012, an attorney representing Burrage contacted the Department.  He had learned that we were interviewing Burrage family members.  We met with the attorney and offered Burrage an opportunity to present his account.  After consulting with his client, in December 2012, the attorney responded that, due to Burrage’s age and health, an interview was not possible.  Burrage died in March 2013.

  1. Potential Forensic Evidence

     We received rumors regarding the possible continued existence of the guns used during the murders.  The FBI explored every allegation.  Based upon all available information related to the murders and the cover-up thereafter, we believe that all guns were likely disposed of or destroyed.  In any event we found no reliable information that might lead to the discovery of a relevant weapon.

Forensic medical examiner Dr. Michael M. Baden stated that he was consulted by state prosecutors prior to the Killen trial.  He said that, based upon the 1964 medical examiner’s report, bullets still in James Chaney’s interred body could be matched to the gun that fired them.  However, the government has no gun associated with the murders.  All efforts to track down the whereabouts of a murder weapon have been unsuccessful. 

Moreover, all the individuals known or suspected to have been present for the murders are now deceased.  Thus, even if we located a gun used in the murders and positively matched it to bullets extracted from Chaney’s body, it would not advance a prosecution against any living subject.          

  1. Analysis of Evidence Regarding Surviving Subjects

     The decision regarding the initiation of a state murder or other state criminal prosecution is properly the province of Mississippi State authorities.  As such, although we proffer observations about the strengths and weaknesses of the existing evidence relevant to ________________________________________________________.
     __________________________________________________________________________

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________ .  

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________ 

    __________________________________________________________________________ .   

     __________________________________________________________________________ . 

     __________________________________________________________________________

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

     __________________________________________________________________________

     __________________________________________________________________________ . 

     __________________________________________________________________________ . 

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

  1. Conclusion

     It has been our goal in this Emmett Till Act investigation to assist the state in the critical decisions it must make.  This report is intended to provide as fair an analysis of the available evidence as is practical to help the Mississippi Attorney General make a fully informed decision.  We have assessed the evidentiary strengths and weaknesses of the information related, the probative value of what a witness has said, the likelihood that the witness will be willing to testify in public, and if so, our best view as to whether a witness’s account will remain firm should the witness testify at a public trial.  Obviously, the willingness of surviving witnesses to cooperate fully rather than minimizing their knowledge with false denials or feigned memory problems is a factor to consider in analyzing the strength or weakness of a potential prosecution.  Finally, nothing contained herein is intended to favor either state prosecution or declination of prosecution.

     It is appropriate to close this report with an observation made in its Introduction.  With the passage of nearly fifty years, few persons with any direct knowledge of the facts relevant to the June 21, 1964 murders still remain alive.  Most of the original cooperators and confidential sources are deceased.  Many of these elderly witnesses have understandably imperfect recollections.  Other witnesses are reluctant to provide information.  Some witnesses, despite comprehensive efforts – including pursuit of evidence to support federal prosecution for false statement, nonetheless appear to have accomplished their intention to continue to conceal crucial relevant information.  These realities impacted our investigation and the current prospects of uncovering any further information useful for prosecutive purposes.
 
     But, it should also not be forgotten that nine men have been held accountable for this crime.  Heroic efforts by the FBI and Department’s Civil Right Division enabled the successful federal prosecution of eight Klansmen, none of whom would otherwise have been brought to justice by the civil rights era Mississippi State authorities.  Thereafter, an equally remarkable 2005 effort by modern era Mississippi prosecutors resulted in yet one more criminal conviction in these tragic murders.  Seven Klansmen who directly participated in this horrific killing and the state Klan leader who authorized the murders were incarcerated and have now passed on.  The Klansman who, as much as anyone, facilitated these racist murders will spend his remaining years behind bars.  Regardless whether all those responsible have or can be held accountable, the deaths of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman have been thoroughly and aggressively investigated and reinvestigated and have thus received some measure of vindication. 

Attachment A
Defendants, Witnesses and Others Related to June 21, 1964 Murders
(in alphabetical order)

Arledge, Jimmy deceased – (Meridian) convicted Price defendant, present at murders.

Akin, Bernard L. deceased – (Meridian) acquitted Price defendant, owner of Akin’s Mobile Homes, allegedly present when Killen came to Meridian to recruit Klansmen.

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

Barnette, Ethal Glenn “Hop” deceased – (Philadelphia) mistrial Price defendant, former Neshoba County Sherriff.

Barnette, Horace Doyle “H.D.” deceased – (Meridian) convicted Price defendant, confessed he was present at murders.

Barnette, Travis Maryn deceased – (Meridian) acquitted Price defendant, brother of H.D. Barnette, conflict whether present at murders. 

Bowers, Sam Holloway deceased – (Laurel, MS) convicted Price defendant, leader Mississippi Klan, authorized “elimination” of Schwerner.

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

Burrage, Olen Lowell deceased – (Philadelphia) acquitted Price defendant, owner Old Jolly Farm where bodies buried, allegedly assisted burial.

Burkes, Otha deceased – (Philadelphia) police officer charged, but dismissed, as Price defendant.

Chaney, James deceased – (Meridian) local volunteer, Mississippi Congress of Federation Organizations, killed June 21, 1964.

Dennis, Delmar deceased – (Meridian) Klan leader, testified in Price about Klan meetings and discussions.

Goodman, Andrew (New York) – recent volunteer, Mississippi Congress of Federation Organizations, killed June 21, 1964.

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

Hatcher, Joseph Michael – (Meridian) 1964 police officer, testified in Price and Killen about Klan meetings and Killen admissions.

Herndon, Frank J. deceased – (Meridian) acquitted Price defendant, allegedly recruited Meridian Klansmen for Killen on June 21.

Jordan, James Edward deceased – (Meridian) convicted Price defendant, testified for government at    Price trial & present at murders.

Killen, Edgar Ray – (Philadelphia) mistrial Price defendant, convicted Killen defendant, recruited Meridian Klansmen

Klansman Source – (Protected ID) attended 1964 Klan meetings with Harris and Meridian Klansman when “elimination” discussed.

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

Miller, Carlton Wallace deceased – (Meridian) 1964 police sergeant, attended Klan meetings when “elimination” discussed.

Posey, Billy Wayne deceased – (Philadelphia) convicted Price defendant, present at murders.

Price, Cecil Ray deceased – (Philadelphia) convicted Price defendant, Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff.

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

Rainey, Lawrence Andrew deceased – (Philadelphia) acquitted Price defendant, Neshoba County Sherriff.

Roberts, Alton Wayne deceased – (Meridian) convicted Price defendant, present at murders.

Schwerner, Michael deceased – (New York) volunteer, Mississippi Congress of Federation Organizations, killed June 21, 1964.

Sharpe, Jerry McGrew deceased – (Philadelphia) mistrial Price defendant, allegedly accompanied Killen to Meridian, conflict whether present at murders.

Snowden, Jimmy deceased – (Meridian) convicted Price defendant, present at murders.             

     __________________________________________________________________________ .

Tucker, Herman deceased – (Philadelphia) acquitted Price defendant, bulldozer operator Old Jolly Farm

Warner, Oliver Richard deceased – (Meridian) storeowner originally charged, but dismissed, as Price defendant.

Willis, Richard Andrew deceased – (Philadelphia) acquitted Price defendant, policeman allegedly helped Deputy Price alert Klansmen in Philadelphia.

Meridian Price Defendants

Arledge, Jimmy deceased
Akin, Bernard L. deceased
Barnette, Horace Doyle “H.D.” deceased
Barnette, Travis Maryn deceased
Harris, James Thomas “Pete”
Herndon, Frank J. deceased
Jordan, James Edward deceased
Roberts, Alton Wayne deceased
Snowden, Jimmy deceased

Philadelphia Price Defendants

Barnette, Ethal Glenn “Hop” deceased
Burrage, Olen Lowell deceased
Killen, Edgar Ray
Posey, Billy Wayne deceased
Price, Cecil Ray deceased
Sharpe, Jerry McGrew deceased
Tucker, Herman deceased
Willis, Richard Andrew deceased

Laurel, MS Price Defendant

Bowers, Sam Holloway deceased


 

[1]  Federal charges related to the 1964 killings – even if supported by sufficient evidence – cannot be legally brought against anyone because the-then-existing statute of limitations bars the United States from prosecuting anyone for federal criminal civil rights charges related to these murders.  Prior to 1994, these charges were not capital offenses and were thus subject to a five-year statute of limitations.  See 18 U.S.C. § 3282(a).  In 1994, some of these civil rights statutes were amended to provide the death penalty for violations resulting in death, thereby eliminating the statute of limitations.  See 18 U.S.C. § 3281 (“An indictment for any offense punishable by death may be found at any time without limitation.”).  However, the Ex Post Facto Clause prohibits the retroactive application of the 1994 increase in penalties and the resultant change in the statute of limitations to the detriment of criminal defendants.  Stogner v. California, 539 U.S. 607, 611 (2003).  The Civil Rights Division has used non-civil rights statutes to overcome the statute of limitations challenge in certain cases, such as those occurring on federal land or involving kidnapping across state lines with death resulting. The facts of the present case do not support the elements necessary for prosecution under any other federal statutes.  Thus, the state of Mississippi is the only forum available for any prosecution related to the murders.

[2]  Attachment A lists the individuals who are referenced throughout this report and provides a brief summary of their relevance to events.

[3]  A total of twenty-two individuals were charged as being involved in the murder conspiracy.  The above eight were convicted.  Eight others – Richard Andrew Willis, Olen Lowell Burrage, James Thomas “Pete” Harris, Bernard L. Akin, Travis Maryn Barnette, Frank J. Herndon, Lawrence Andrew Rainey, and Herman Tucker – were acquitted.  Mistrials were granted as to three defendants – Edgar Ray Killen, Jerry McGrew Sharpe, and Ethal Glenn “Hop” Barnette.   Finally, Otha Neal Burkes, Jimmy Lee Townsend and Oliver Richard Warner were charged in preliminary charging documents, but they were not included in the final indictment and were not trial defendants.

[4]  While the identity of certain FBI protected confidential sources cannot publicly be released to protect against possible harm to these elderly individuals, the information that each witness provided to a past or to the current investigation has been shared with the Mississippi Attorney General for his assessment of its prosecutive value.

[5]  Meridian, Mississippi, and Philadelphia, Mississippi are approximately forty miles apart.  In 1964, Meridian was a thriving, mid-sized municipality, and Philadelphia was a much smaller, rural town.  Klansmen from the two communities often attended the same Klan meetings and had previously acted in concert.  Thus, some members of the Meridian Klan chapter knew members of the Philadelphia Klan chapter, but others from the two groups were not acquainted.

[6]  A now-deceased cooperating government witness, James Jordan, identified __________ by name as ___________ and Jerry McGrew Sharpe, ___________.  The information related to ___________ and Sharpe (deceased) is discussed in more detail later in the report.

[7]  As discussed in the summary of the Price trial at Section IV.E., the testimony was conflicting as to whether Travis Barnette was present at the killings.

[8]       __________________________________________________________________________ .  

[9]  There are conflicting accounts as to whether Travis Barnette and/or Sharpe (both now deceased) were also present.  In the 1967 federal trial, Travis Barnette was acquitted and Sharpe was granted a mistrial.

[10]  There is no written record of the identity of this source.  The only FBI agent who knew the source’s identity is now deceased.

[11]  One now-deceased witness identified the bulldozer operator who buried the bodies as “Herman,” and Herman Tucker, a deceased acquitted defendant in Price, was a bulldozer operator who was working on Burrage’s dam. 

[12]  These two officers confirmed that they had encountered Posey and Deputy Price in their vehicles on Highway 19 just outside of Philadelphia shortly after the civil rights workers had been released.  During previous interviews, the highway patrolmen admitted only that they helped Deputy Price transport the three men from the site of their arrest to the jail.  After Jordan reported their night-time encounter with Price and Posey on Highway 19 just before the chase of the victims began, the FBI used that information to persuade the officers to admit this significant fact (see Price trial summary in Section IV). 

[13]       __________________________________________________________________________ . 

[14]  Oliver Richard Warner (deceased), another Meridian Klansman, was charged in preliminary charging documents, but was not charged in the final Indictment and was not a defendant at trial.

[15]  In an FBI interview, but not at trial, Jordan explained that _____________________________________________ . 

[16]      __________________________________________________________________________ .

[17]  Jordan further testified that Hop Barnette recruited and led men from the June 16 Klan meeting to go to the Mt. Zion church.  An African-American church member corroborated Jordan with testimony that Hop Barnette was one of the Klansmen present during the beating at the church.   

[18]       __________________________________________________________________________ . 

[19]  Throughout the trial, government counsel neglected to indicate on the record which defendant was identified when witnesses made identifications by gesture. 

[20] H.D. Barnette’s unredacted confession also identified his brother, Travis Barnette, as having been present for the murders, but that information was redacted from H.D. Barnette’s confession as it was admitted in trial. 

[21]  This part of Burrage’s alibi established that Burrage was awake in his home just across a country road from his business buildings at 1 a.m.  According to both Jordan’s testimony and H.D. Barnette’s unredacted confession, that is approximately the same time when Burrage was at his business buildings assisting the killers. 

[22]  There were no sentencing guidelines in the 1960s and federal judges had wide sentencing discretion.

[23]  A federal prosecution of Harris, who was acquitted in the Price trial, is also barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment.   U.S. Const., Amend. V.  “To permit a second trial after an acquittal, however mistaken the acquittal may have been, would present an unacceptably high risk that the Government with its vast superior resources, might wear down the defendant so that ‘even though innocent, he may be found guilty.’” United States v. Scott, 437 U.S. 82, 91 (1978) (quoting Green v. United States, 355 U.S. 184, 188 (1957)). 

[24] John Doar, former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and one of the prosecutors in the 1967 Price trial, advised a current Department attorney that,_______________________________________.

[25]       __________________________________________________________________________ . 

Attachments: 
Updated May 10, 2018