Appeals Court Rejects Challenge to Conviction of Former Mississippi Klansman in 1964 Kidnapping and Murder of Two African American Men
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit today rejected a challenge to the conviction of James Ford Seale, a former member of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi.
Seale was convicted by a federal jury in Mississippi in 2007 and sentenced to three life terms in prison. The jury determined that Seale and other Klansmen conspired to abduct, interrogate, beat and eventually murder Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charlie Eddie Moore, both 19 years old at the time of their murders.
Seale appealed his convictions, arguing that a 1972 amendment to the federal kidnapping statute changed the statute of limitations to five years. In September 2008, a three-judge panel agreed with Seale, overturning his convictions. The United States successfully urged the full court to rehear the case and, in the meantime, to keep Seale in jail. Today, a divided court upheld the trial court’s decision to deny Seale’s motion to dismiss the indictment based on the statute of limitations. The appeal will return to the original three-judge panel to resolve the remaining issues.
"We are pleased with today’s decision rejecting the argument that it was too late to bring Seale to justice," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
Based on evidence presented at trial, the jury determined that on May 2, 1964, Seale and his accomplices abducted Dee and Moore and drove the two young men into the Homochitto National Forest in Franklin County, Miss., where the Klansmen beat the victims, interrogated them at gunpoint and bound the two men with duct tape. The Klansmen then drove the victims to Parker’s Landing in Warren County, Miss., passing through the state of Louisiana, where the Klansmen secured Dee and Moore to heavy objects and threw them into the Old Mississippi River, drowning them.
Seale is the first and only individual to be convicted for participating in the kidnapping and murders.
The conviction of James Ford Seale is the result of the investigative work of the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the Adam’s County Sheriff’s Office and the Mississippi Department of Public Safety also assisted in the investigation. This case was prosecuted by Dunn Lampton, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, and Special Litigation counsel Paige Fitzgerald and trial attorney Eric Gibson, both of the Civil Rights Division. The appeal was handled by attorney Tovah R. Calderon, also of the Civil Rights Division.