AG Closes ‘Mississippi Burning’ Investigation

     JACKSON, Miss. (CN) — The investigation into the 1964 killings of three civil rights volunteers that inspired the movie “Mississippi Burning” has concluded, Attorney General Jim Hood said Monday.
     “The FBI, my office and other law enforcement agencies have spent decades chasing leads, searching for evidence and fighting for justice for the three young men who were senselessly murdered on June 21, 1964,” Hood said.
     “There are no more viable potential criminal charges,” he added.
     James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner disappeared during “Freedom Summer,” 52 years ago, while working to register disenfranchised African-American voters in Neshoba County.
     Their bodies were discovered 44 days later in an earthen dam under construction.
     In 1967, one man pleaded guilty and seven others were tried and convicted of federal civil rights violations related to the murders, according to a 48-page Department of Justice report of the investigation.
     In 2005, Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of manslaughter and is currently serving a 60-year prison sentence.
     The U.S. Department of Justice re-opened the investigation for a third time in 2010 to determine whether any admissible evidence existed to support further state prosecution against any surviving person involved in the murders.
     “Mississippi Attorney General Hood has determined that despite one of the most intensely investigated and documented underlying investigations of any racially-motivated murder during the 1960s, followed by the exhaustive efforts of more recent reinvestigations, the passage of time has simply rendered additional prosecutions impossible,” Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Right Division, said.
     “Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner gave their lives while struggling to advance the cause of civil rights for all. Though the reinvestigation into their heinous deaths has formally closed, we must all honor their legacy by forging ahead and continuing the fight to ensure that the founding promise of America is true for all of its inhabitants,” Gupta said.
     Attorney General Hood said the most recent development in the case was approximately 18 months ago, when a witness backed out at the last minute after pledging to sign a sworn statement that would have implicated a suspect.
     Hood said the decision to close the case also closes “a significant chapter in Mississippi’s history.”
     “Our state and our entire nation are a much better place because of the work of those three young men and others in 1964 who only wanted to ensure that the rights and freedoms promised in our Constitution were afforded to every single one of us in Mississippi,” he said.

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