Judge sets hearing on kidnapping charges in 1964 killings of 2 black men in Miss.

Published 5:28 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A federal judge will hear arguments Thursday in reputed Ku Klux Klansman James Ford Seale’s motion to dismiss kidnapping charges against him in the 1964 slayings of two black men.

U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate scheduled the hearing for 8:30 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Jackson.

Seale, 71, was arrested Jan. 24 at his home in the southwest Mississippi town of Roxie and pleaded not guilty the next day to two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy. Seale is being held without bond in the Madison County jail outside Jackson.

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Seale could be sentenced to up to life in prison if convicted in the case tied to the deaths of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee.

Prosecutors said Moore and Dee were seized and beaten by Klansmen, then thrown into the Mississippi River to drown.

In a motion to dismiss the charges last month, Assistant Federal Defender Kathy Nester said the government needed to charge Seale under the law that was in effect at the time of the alleged offense. The statute of limitations on the federal crime of kidnapping is five years, meaning the deadline to charge Seale was 1969, she argued.

U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton, in a response filed earlier this month, said Seale’s attorneys were misreading the law. Lampton said while the U.S. Supreme Court in 1968 may have eliminated the death penalty for kidnapping, the court did not remove the designation of kidnapping as a capital crime under federal law.

Federal Public Defender S. Dennis Joiner, in a reply to the government’s position, said once the death penalty was removed as a penalty for kidnapping, kidnapping became a non-capital offense.

Seale and reputed KKK member Charles Marcus Edwards were arrested in 1964. The FBI, consumed by the search for three civil rights workers who had disappeared from Neshoba County that summer, turned the case over to local authorities, who promptly threw out all charges.

The Justice Department in 2000 reopened the investigation into the slayings of Moore and Dee.