JACKSON, Miss. (CN) – Franklin County police conspired with the Ku Klux Klan to kidnap and murder two black teenagers in 1964, and then lied about their involvement, covering up the conspiracy until a 2007 indictment flushed out their crimes, the murdered teens’ heirs claim in Federal Court.
Charles Moore and Henry Dee, both 19 at the time, were kidnapped, beaten and murdered by several members of the Klan. Their estates say Franklin County police aided and abetted the crimes, but claimed not to know what happened to the youths when asked by relatives and the media.
On Nov. 6, 1964, Klan members James Ford Searle and Charles Marcus Edwards were arrested and charged with the crimes. Lenox Forman, the county district attorney, later dropped the charges.
But 43 years after the crimes were committed, a federal grand jury indicted Searle, charging him with two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to murder Moore and Dee.
Edwards testified before the grand jury in Searle’s case, under immunity, and claimed that Franklin County Sheriff Wayne Hutto and Deputy Sheriff Kirby Shell conspired with the Klansmen on the day of the murders and covered up their involvement.
Hutto and Shell allegedly misled FBI investigators, along with the families of the murdered men, who claim the law enforcement’s involvement came to light only with the 2007 indictment.
“This is a case about unconscionable crimes and unconscionable deception,” the plaintiffs claim. “It is also a case about the systemic denial by Franklin County of law enforcement protection to African-Americans and to whites suspected of opposing the Klan’s campaign of racist terror.”
The lawsuit cites other black citizens whom Franklin County police allegedly failed to protect against racial intimidation and violence, including Rev. Clyde Briggs, Burl Jones and Pastor Robert Middleton.
The plaintiffs say the defendants’ conspiracy and “callousness” deprived them of their First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights.
They are represented by Dennis Sweet and Warren Martin.