Justice Long in Coming

Justice Long in Coming A local family may finally find justice 40 years after an infamous crime.

In the summer of 1964, three civil rights workers in Mississippi were murdered. Now, in 2005, there has been an arrest.

Edgar Ray Killen, 79, a reputed Ku Klux Klansman, pleaded not guilty Friday in Philadelphia, Miss. Killen stood trial once before on conspiracy charges but was freed after the trial ended in a hung jury.

This is the first time murder charges have ever been filed in the civil rights killings.

The murders of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner were memorialized in the 1988 movie "Mississippi Burning." The three men were ambushed, beaten and shot as they tried to register black voters in the south. Their bodies were later found buried under a dam.

Chaney's family now lives in Willingboro.

Chaney's mother, Fannie Lee Chaney, has waited 40 years for word of an arrest in her son's murder. But after all these years, she now fears the old adage that justice delayed may be justice denied.

Chaney says she still doesn't believe Killen will ever be prosecuted for her son's death because she doubts the passage of time has changed Mississippi.

She says race colored the judicial system 40 years ago.

"I ain't heard nothing but 'get away from Mississippi,'" Chaney said.

Chaney fears that she will see a repeat of that time in the late 1960s when Killen and 18 other men were convicted of federal civil rights violations but later freed.

"(Killen) ought to just tell it, and he ought to tell the world what the rest of them did," Chaney said.

For James Chaney's sister, Julia Chaney-Moss, it is 1964 all over again.

"Today is like the first day, like June 22, 1964," Chaney-Moss said.

Chaney-Moss is trying to make peace with the arrest and arraignment of Killen in the murder of her brother and two other civil rights workers, but she also fears that Mississippi hate may be slow to fade.

"This is not the first time there was an attempt, mind you, to reopen this case and to do the reinvestigation. This is the first time it's actually progressed this far," Chaney-Moss said.

The Chaney family said they have learned to never give up. They are now waiting for word from the state's attorney in Mississippi on an exact trial date. It is a date Chaney says she will not miss.

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Author: Copyright 2004 by NBC10.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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