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Former Ku Klux Klansman and Baptist preacher Edgar Ray Killen lost his appeal to the Supreme Court, who upheld the guilty verdict for the three murders of civil rights workers. Killen was convicted of manslaughter in 2005 and sentenced to 60 years in a Mississippi prison, where he will likely spend the rest of his life, given that he is currently 88 years old.
"We, as a family, are very pleased with that rejection and we were rather surprised that the appeal was even being considered," Rev. Julia Chaney Moss, the sister of one of the victims, told CBS News. "I wish the best for Mr. Killen and his family, whatever that can be."
Killen allegedly killed Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman in 1964. The three men, in Mississippi as part of the civil rights movement, disappeared on June 21, 1965 and were later found dead and buried on a nearby farm. Killen was charged with the murders and found guilty of manslaughter; the story led to the famous movie, "Mississippi Burning," which was based on Killen's trial.
Killen was 80 years old when found guilty of manslaughter; jurors reportedly said that they simply did not have enough evidence to convict him of murder, which would have led to a harsher sentence.
"I should say I heard a number of very emotional statements from some of the white jurors," Warren Paprocki, himself a juror, told the New York Times after the trial. "They had tears in their eyes, saying that if they could just have better evidence in the case that they would have convicted him of murder in a minute. Our consensus was the state did not produce a strong enough case."
"Even though it's not murder, manslaughter is a serious felony crime," Andrew Cohen told CBS News. "It almost certainly will involve significant prison time which means the conviction is tantamount to a death sentence for the frail Killen."
Authorities never believed that Killen worked alone but was only able to convict him on the charges. He has appealed the conviction time-after-time but has never been successful. Mississippi's Attorney General, Jim Hood, has asked Killen to cooperate and reveal all about the murders and help bring others to conviction.
This is only the latest in a series of appeals to be denied by the court, but now that the Supreme Court has weighed in, it could be his last.