- The Washington Times - Friday, June 17, 2005

PHILADELPHIA, Miss. (AP) — A former Ku Klux Klansman accused in the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers told fellow Klansmen to leave one of the men alone because another KKK unit had been assigned to “eliminate” him, according to testimony read in court yesterday.

The 1967 testimony from Carlton Wallace Miller — a Klansman, local police officer and FBI informant who is now dead — was read to the jury on the second day of 80-year-old Edgar Ray Killen’s murder trial. Mr. Miller testified that the local Klan chapter met in the spring of 1964 and discussed whipping civil rights worker Michael Schwerner.

“Mr. Killen told us to leave him alone, that another unit was going to take care of him, that his elimination had been approved,” Mr. Miller said. He said Mr. Killen, one of the meeting’s leaders, told the men the Klan’s Imperial Wizard had signed off on the plan to kill Mr. Schwerner.

The statements came on a day of testimony dominated by witnesses who have long since died.

Because the killings occurred more than 40 years ago, and many of the witnesses who testified in a 1967 federal trial are no longer available, prosecutors got permission to put their co-workers on the stand and have them read transcripts of the 1967 testimony. Defense attorneys then had the stand-in witnesses read sections of the 1967 cross-examination.

Mr. Killen, who spent Thursday night in the hospital for elevated blood pressure, was rolled into court in a wheelchair for yesterday’s session. During part of the transcript reading, Mr. Killen appeared to nod off. At other times, he read along from a copy of the transcript he held in his lap.

The first live witness to testify yesterday was Dean Lytle, a former FBI agent who helped investigate the slayings. He said he was present when agents found the victims’ fire-gutted station wagon in a swamp.

Local residents were “hostile” to agents investigating the men’s deaths, Mr. Lytle said. He said when it came time to leave town, the lead agent suggested forming a caravan because he was concerned the agents would be attacked.

“They were unhappy we were here,” Mr. Lytle said. “I can’t recall anyone who provided me any useful information.”

Mr. Killen is on trial in the killings of James Chaney, a black Mississippian, and Mr. Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, white New Yorkers, who were in the town to investigate the burning of a black church. They were stopped for speeding, jailed briefly and then released, after which they were ambushed by a gang of Klansmen.

Prosecutors say Mr. Killen planned the killings and helped round up Klansmen to chase down and kill the three. The men were beaten and fatally shot, and their bodies were found 44 days later buried in an earthen dam.

Mr. Killen stood trial on federal charges in 1967, but the all-white jury could not reach a verdict. He could get life in prison if convicted in the state trial.

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