The Dee and Moore Case

Moore and Dee were 19 years old when, on May 2, 1964, members of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan kidnapped and murdered them in Franklin County, believing the two might have information about gun-running in the county. The men were kidnapped from the main street in Meadville and taken to the Homochitto National Forest where they were tied to a tree and beaten. The Klansmen placed Dee and Moore in a trunk of a car and transported them to Tallulah, LA, where they dumped them, while they were still alive, into the Old Mississippi River. Their disarticulated bodies were discovered by a fisherman in July 1964.

In November 1964, two reputed Klansmen, James Seale and Marcus Edwards, were arrested and charged in connection with the kidnap/murder, but the prosecutor moved to drop the charges in January 1965. In 2005, US Attorney Dunn Lampton responded to a request made by Thomas Moore, brother of Charles, to investigate the matter. In 2007, James Seale was convicted and sentenced to life on one kidnapping charge. On September 9, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit reversed Seale’s conviction. The panel decision is on appeal to the full bench.

In August 2008, the families of Charles Moore and Henry Dee filed a federal civil suit a against Franklin County, in the Southern District of Mississippi. The families are represented by CRRJ. The suit alleges that collusion between Franklin County law enforcement officers and the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan contributed to Moore and Dee’s kidnap and murder.

On June 21, 2010 the Board of Supervisors of Franklin County, Mississippi approved the settlement reached by the county and the families of two

young men who were kidnapped, tortured and murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in 1964.  In this landmark civil case, the plaintiffs claimed that the county law enforcement officials aided and abetted the Ku Klux Klan in the kidnapping, torture and murder of Henry Dee and Charles Moore.

This case marks the first time victims of the Klan’s campaign of racial hatred and violence have recovered damages against a public entity for its role in connection with Klan activities. CRRJ represented the families of Dee and Moore in seeking redress for the miscarriage of justice that spanned over four decades.

I. The Murder of Henry Dee and Charles Moore

During the years of 1963-1965, the Ku Klux Klan engaged in a campaign of  racial violence and terror in Franklin County, Mississippi, where the racist organization was particularly prevalent.  The purpose of the campaign was to deter African-Americans from civic participation, to deny them equal rights and access to public services and to the courts, and to repress resistance to racial domination. The campaign was not limited to violent attacks and threats to African-Americans, however, but also included attacks on whites that disobeyed Klan edicts.  On May 2, 1964, Charles Moore and Henry Dee, two African-American 19-year-old teenagers were kidnapped, beaten and murder by several members of the Klan.

Sometime in the spring of 1964, the Franklin County chapter of the Klan met to discuss what to do about black militants who, according to the Klan, were bringing firearms into Franklin County. Charles Edwards, a Klansman present at the meeting, urged the group to target Henry Dee because he fit the profile of a black militant. Edwards, who lived near Dee, selected Dee because he wore a bandanna on his head and he had recently returned to Mississippi from visiting relatives in Chicago.

On May 2, 1964, Charles Moore, a student at Alcorn College, and Henry Dee, who was employed at a local a pulpwood mill, were together in downtown Meadville, the seat of Franklin County. Later that morning, the two young men decided to hitchhike to another destination on Mississippi State Highway 84.  Dee and Moore were picked up on the highway by Klansman James Ford Seale, who took his victims to the Homochitto National Forest where he was joined by fellow KKK members Charles Edwards, Archie Prather, Curtis Dunn and Clyde Seale, his father and the Exalted Cyclops of the Franklin County Klan.  The Klansmen threatened Dee and Moore with a shotgun and whipped them with bean poles and tree limbs for about 30 minutes, demanding to know where “the guns” were in the black community of Franklin County. Under the pressure of this torture, Dee and Moore falsely claimed they knew where the guns were being hidden and provided the Klan with the name of Rev. Clyde Briggs and identified one of the churches he pastored, Roxie First Baptist Church, as the hiding place.

Briggs, a respected pastor, was known as a supporter of black civil rights.  After Briggs’ name was mentioned by Dee and Moore, Charles Edwards, Clyde Seale and Archie Prather left the Homochitto Forest and proceeded directly to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department in Meadville to seek the assistance of Sheriff Wayne Hutto in searching the Roxie church.  According to Charles Edwards, a search warrant was issued for the Roxie Baptist Church after this meeting.  Sheriff Hutto, his deputy, and a highway patrolman accompanied the Klansmen to search the Roxie church. The church was locked when the group of Klansmen and law enforcement officials arrived. The deputy and highway patrolman were sent to locate Rev. Briggs and bring him back to the Roxie church so that it could be searched. Rev. Briggs opened the church. Finding no weapons, the officers and Klansman left the church. The Sheriff’s deputy told Rev. Briggs to secure the church because it might be a target for arson later that night.

In the meantime, James Seale and Curtis Dunn transported Moore and Dee to another location and after a few hours put their victims into the trunk of James Seale’s car.  Dee and Moore were driven for two hours – across the Mississippi River to Parkers Landing, on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River, where they were removed from the trunk of the car. The Klansmen tied Henry Dee to a jeep engine block, took him by boat into the river, and, while Moore watched from shore, tossed him overboard to drown. They then tied Charles Moore to a railroad tie and iron weights. They took him by boat into the river and threw him overboard as well.  Both men were still alive when they were thrown into the Mississippi River.

II. The Original Investigation and Cover-Up

About two days after the murder, on May 4, 1964, Mazie Moore, Charles Moore’s mother, went to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department to meet with Sheriff Hutto. She reported to the Sheriff that her son and Henry Dee had been missing for two days. The Sheriff did not inform Mrs. Moore about the search of the Roxie church that had been conducted by the his department in collusion with the Klan, or about the kidnapping or murder of Moore and Dee two days earlier.  Mrs. Moore traveled to Louisiana soon after and learned the young men had never been there.  On or about May 16, 1964, Evie Bell, Charles Moore’s cousin, accompanied by Virginia Hunt, Henry Dee’s aunt, went to the Sheriff’s Department to meet with Sheriff Hutto to inquire further about the disappearance of Charles Moore and Henry Dee.  Sheriff Hutto told the women that he had no information about the whereabouts of Moore or Dee.

On July 12, 1964, the disarticulated lower torso of Charles Moore was discovered in the river south of Tallulah, Louisiana. Moore’s body was identified by the draft card he had in his possession at the time of his death.  The next day, the disarticulated lower torso of Henry Dee was found in the river in the same area.  On or about July 16, 1964, the families of Moore and Dee were notified of the deaths of their loved ones and advised to collect their partial remains in Jackson, Mississippi.  On October 30, 1964, the upper torsos of Moore and Dee were found in the river along with the engine block that had been tied to Henry Dee before he was thrown overboard on May 2.

On November 6, 1964, after an extensive FBI investigation, state authorities arrested James Ford Seale and Charles Marcus Edwards for the kidnapping and murder of Dee and Moore. Two days before the arrest, the FBI interviewed Sheriff Hutto and his deputy, but neither disclosed their participation in the search of the Roxie Baptist Church or any other pertinent information.  During questioning Seale told the police only that they would have to prove his guilt.  Edwards gave a more detailed interview suggesting that he targeted Dee because he was caught “peeping” at his wife. The FBI turned over its files to then- District Attorney Lenox Foreman.

On January 11, 1965, the criminal charges against Seale and Edwards were dismissed on the recommendation of District Attorney Foreman. After the dismissal of state charges, the FBI actively continued to investigate the murders to no avail.

III. The Case Lies Dormant: 1964-2005

Despite the copious amount of evidence collected by the FBI during their investigation of the Moore and Dee murders, there were several factors that impeded legal action.  First, several of the local authorities in Franklin County had a collusive relationship with the Klan.  County authorities often refused to investigate or prosecute Klan crimes and actively worked to cover-up the commission of such crimes.  Indeed Sheriff Wayne Hutto himself is alleged to have been a member of the KKK.  Second, despite his initial interest in pursuing the matter District Attorney Lenox Foreman abruptly dismissed charges against Seale and Edwards for reasons that are not entirely clear.

Further impeding any action on behalf of Moore and Dee’s families, James Ford Seale, who was identified as leading several Klan activities, was rumored to be dead.  This rumor was started by his family and widely believed in Franklin County until 2005, when Thomas Moore, Charles’ brother, and David Ridgen, a Canadian filmmaker with whom Thomas Moore was working to document the 1964 murders, discovered that Seale was still alive and active in Franklin County.  Later in 2005 Thomas Moore convinced U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton to look into the slayings.

On July 25, 2006, a federal court granted Charles Edwards immunity from prosecution. In January 2007 a federal grand jury indicted James Ford Seale.  He was convicted by a jury of kidnapping and conspiracy in the deaths of Charles Moore and Henry Dee and sentenced to three life terms.  On September 9, 2008, a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the kidnapping conviction, but this decision itself was later overturned when, on June 5, 2009, an en banc panel of the Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s original conviction.  Finally, on November 2, 2009 the Supreme Court refused to grant Seale a writ of certiorari.

IV. Criminal Prosecution: US vs. James Ford Seale 2006-2007

On July 25, 2006, a federal court granted Charles Edwards immunity from prosecution. In January 2007 a federal grand jury indicted James Ford Seale.  He was convicted by a jury of kidnapping and conspiracy in the deaths of Charles Moore and Henry Dee and sentenced to three life terms.  On September 9, 2008, a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the kidnapping conviction, but this decision itself was later overturned when, on June 5, 2009, an en banc panel of the Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s original conviction.  Finally, on November 2, 2009 the Supreme Court refused to grant Seale a writ of certiorari.

V. Moore v. Franklin County

CRRJ conducted extensive research of state and federal records to determine if there were any avenues to pursue other wrongdoers, particularly the public officials of Franklin County.  On August 5, 2008, Thomas Moore and Thelma Collins, Henry Dee’s sister, filed a civil action against Franklin County.  CRRJ’s research suggested that the Klan met, planned and carried out crimes in complicity with Franklin County law enforcerment who were either Klansmen themselves or sympathizers, and without whose active cooperation the more hands-on perpetrators could not have escaped justice for over four decades.  In November 2008 former Highway Patrol investigator Donald Butler told the Jackson Clarion Ledger that Sheriff Hutto shared little information with the patrol or the FBI: “They thought the more they could keep away from us, the better off they were.” Butler further noted that Hutto was “sympathetic to the Klan.”

Based on this information, the complaint contained five claims against Franklin County. First, it alleged that the policies, practices and omissions of the County deprived Dee and Moore of the equal benefits of the law in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a).  Second, it alleged that Sheriff Hutto’s unconstitutional policies and practices of protecting the Klan from criminal investigation and prosecution constituted the official policy, custom, and practice of Franklin County, all in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The complaint further alleged that Franklin County officials were: protecting the Klan from criminal prosecution for their violent acts; depriving African-Americans of public protection in cases of racial violence perpetrated by whites; failing to train law enforcement officers in how to enforce the law equally; and covering up crimes of racial violence from other police agencies.  Third, the complaint alleged that Franklin County conspired with the Klan to deprive Dee and Moore of their constitutionally protected rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3).  Finally, the complaint alleged that the actions of Franklin County deprived the plaintiffs of their constitutional right to access the courts.

Although all the claims are based on conduct taking place in 1964, the applicable statute of limitations for these claims was tolled until 2007, when the facts pointing to the County’s involvement were discovered.  Defendant Franklin County asserted that these claims were time-barred by the doctrine of laches and the three year statutes of limitation.  Defendant’s  motion to dismiss on these grounds was denied on June 30, 2009. The district court ruled that the facts in the complaint supported plaintiffs’ theories that the cause of action accrued later than 1964, and the defendants’ fraudulent concealment tolled the limitations period. The defendants subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, and all parties prepared for trial until the June 2010 settlement was reached.