Reputed klansman appeals convictions in deaths of 2 black teenagers

Published 4:09 am Sunday, May 4, 2008

James Ford Seale, the reputed Klansman serving three life sentences for kidnapping and conspiracy in the 1964 abductions and killings of the two black teenagers, gets another day in court.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear Seale’s appeal on June 2 in New Orleans.

The bodies of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee were fished out of a Mississippi River backwater in 1964.

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Seale, 72, is serving his sentences at the Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute, Ind., according go the Bureau of Prisons.

He was convicted June 14, 2007, in the deaths of Dee and Moore, who were both 19 when they disappeared from Franklin County on May 2, 1964. Their bodies, mostly just skeletal remains, were found more than two months later.

The prosecution’s star witness was Charles Marcus Edwards, a confessed Klansman who received immunity from prosecution for his admitted role in the abductions and his testimony. Edwards testified that he and Seale were the only ones who participated in the crime who are still alive. Edwards said he and Seale were members of the same KKK chapter.

Seale was arrested on a state murder charge in 1964, but the charge was later dropped. Federal prosecutors say the state case was dropped because local law enforcement officers in 1964 were in collusion with the Klan.

The defense claimed in last year’s trial that the prosecution failed to prove key elements needed for conviction and didn’t establish that Seale had crossed state lines during the commission of the crimes, which was vital because that’s what gives the federal government jurisdiction in the case.

The defense also attacked Edwards’ testimony and tried to paint Edwards as a liar out to save himself.

Prosecutors described Seale as “defiant, arrogant and unrepentant.”

In another case, the 5th Circuit has scheduled arguments for June 3 in New Orleans in a lawsuit brought by a Newton County-based bail company, which sued Tunica County and its sheriff for suspending the bond writing privileges of its employees.

A federal judge in Mississippi dismissed the lawsuit in 2007, ruling that Hampton Company National Surety LLC did not show any evidence that it was harmed by the Tunica County actions.

In 2005, then-Sheriff Calvin Hamp of Tunica County suspended the bail-writing privileges of two bondsmen after getting a report from the circuit court that the bondsmen were in arrears on three bonds.

The bondsmen’s Mississippi state license to engage in bond writing was not revoked; rather, only their ability to write bonds in Tunica County was curtailed pending resolution of the three arrearages, according to the court record.

According to court documents, HCNS sued the county and the sheriff alleging the county was stopping them from writing bonds. It denied any bonds were in arrears. It sought damages, including lost wages and harm to its reputation and punitive damages. The company also claimed it was discriminated against because its workers were white.

U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson dismissed all the claims. He said the court record showed Hamp had suspended bondsmen — both white and black — who had bonds in arrears with the circuit court.

Davidson said the company also failed show any loss of a constitutional right by the actions of Hamp or Tunica County.