Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fifth Circuit vacates conviction of James Ford Seale

A three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has vacated the conviction of former Ku Klux Klan (KKK) member James Ford Seale for his involvement in the 1964 deaths of two 19-year-old black teens. Seale was sentenced to three life terms in August 2007, two months after his conviction in Mississippi federal court. AP has more.

Seale was convicted in June 2007 of kidnapping and conspiracy in the abductions of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, both 19, who disappeared from Franklin County in Mississippi May 2, 1964. Their decomposed bodies were later pulled from the muddy waters of the Mississippi River.

The 20-page ruling noted the alleged crimes occurred in 1964 and the indictment against Seale was issued in 2007.


Wickipedia carries a summary of this incident in which the Mississippi teens were killed ..

Klansmen abducted the two African American men, Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, both 19, as they were hitchhiking on May 2, 1964, on their way to a party. According to F.B.I. records, Seale suspected Dee of civil-rights activity and told the young men he was a revenue agent, investigating moonshine stills, and then drove them into the Homochitto National Forest between Meadville and Natchez. Other Klansmen followed, and as Seale held a sawed-off shotgun, the other men tied the young men to a tree and severely beat them with long, skinny sticks (called "bean sticks" in Mississippi because they're often used to "stalk" beans in gardens). According to the January 2007 indictment, the Klansmen then took the pair, who were reportedly still alive, to a nearby farm where Seale reportedly duct-taped their mouths and hands. Then the Klansmen wrapped the bloody pair in a plastic tarp and put them into the trunk of another Klansman's red Ford (the deceased Ernest Parker, according to FBI records) and drove almost 100 miles to the Ole River near Tallulah, Louisiana. They had to drive through Louisiana to get there, but the backwater was actually located in Warren County, Mississippi, meaning that they were killed in Mississippi.

There the pair were tied to an old Jeep engine block and sections of railroad track rails with chains before being dumped in the river, reportedly while they were still alive.[5] According to a Klan informant, Seale would say later that he would have shot them first, but didn't want to get blood all over the boat.

The bodies of the pair were found two months later during the search for three missing civil rights workers. The FBI launched an investigation, and presented their findings to local District Attorney Lenox Forman. FBI agents and Mississippi Highway Patrol officers arrested Seale and fellow Klansman Charles Marcus Edwards on Nov. 6, 1964, shortly after the discovery of the bodies, based on informant tips. They were released on Nov. 11, after family members posted $5,000 bond each. On Jan. 11, 1965, District Attorney Lenox Forman filed a “motion to dismiss affidavits” with Justice of the Peace Willie Bedford, who signed the motion the same day. The motions state: “… that in the interest of justice and in order to fully develop the facts in this case, the affidavits against James Seale and Charles Edwards should be dismissed by this Court without prejudice to the Defendants or to the State of Mississippi at this time in order that the investigation may be continued and completed for presentation to a Grand Jury at some later date.”

More from Wickipedia ..

From the Sovereignty Commission files, in a brief search, I was able to find a 1966 AP story naming Edwards as a Klan leader..

An AP story about the probe under Dee's name ..

More from the Mississippi Eyewitness (an interesting 65 page document)

Another newspaper article from Meadville as the two KKK members were released "in the interest of justice" ...

An article under Seale ..

And I'm sure if we keep digging, there MIGHT be more...

Aha! Investigative reports under Forman's files ... (search under L. L. Forman, the district attorney)

Probably there's more. Let me know what you dig out of these files. sk

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