James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner

Background

James Chaney, 21, Michael Schwerner, 24, and Andrew Goodman, 20, disappeared from Neshoba County at 10 pm on Sunday, June 21, 1964. Earlier in the day the men had gone to investigate a church burning. Neshoba County officers arrested and detained the men. They were released by the Sheriff, waylaid by members of the Ku Klux Klan, including law enforcement, and shot on the road. Their burned out car was later found in Bogue Chitto swamp, and, five weeks later and after a massive search, the bodies of the men were found buried 15 feet down.

Legal Status

Circumstantial evidence established a conspiracy between Neshoba County law enforcement officials and the Ku Klux Klan. On February 27, 1967, the FBI arrested 18 members of the White Nights of the KKK on a federal conspiracy indictment pursuant to 18 USC 241. Following a two-week trial in Meridian, led by Assistant United States Attorney John Doar, a jury produced seven guilty verdicts and sentences ranging from three to ten years were imposed. None of the convicted men served more than six years. The all-white jury acquitted eight of the defendants and three ended in mistrials.

In January 6, 2005 Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood charged Klan member and preacher Edgar Ray Killen with the murders. The 1967 trial of Killen had ended in a hung jury. Killen was found guilty on three counts of manslaughter on June 20, 2005 and a sixty year sentence was imposed.