Court Overturns James Ford Seale Conviction - - Jackson, MS

New Orleans, LA 09/09/08

Court Overturns James Ford Seale Conviction

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By Howard Ballou

There has been a shocking decision by the Fifth United States Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court overturned the kidnapping conviction of former Ku Klux Klansman James Ford Seale and rendered a judgement of acquittal. 

Seale is the former KKK member convicted of kidnapping and conspiring to kidnap Charles Eddie Moore and his friend, Henry Hazekiah Dee, in 1964. The teenagers were taken into the woods and beaten, driven across the state line into Louisiana, strapped to an old engine block and some railroad ties and dumped alive into the Mississippi River. They were murdered for no apparent reason other than the color of their skin.

The 2007 conviction, three life sentences, left Thomas Moore with a better feeling about the Magnolia State that had previously failed to punish anyone for killing his brother.

"I now feel Mississippi is my home -- (one) that I would not have owned up to even last night," said Thomas Moore on the day of the initial verdict. "Mississippi, you've come a long way."

But that relief will likely turn to grief and anger with the Appeals Court's decision. The three-judge panel said the statute of limitations had expired based on an amendment to the Federal Kidnapping Statute in 1972.

The judges said it applies to Seale's case because the "alleged offense occurred in 1964 and the indictment was issued in 2007."

In its summary, the Fifth Circuit wrote: "The district court erred by failing to recognize the presumption that changes affecting statutes of limitation apply retroactively, even without explicit direction from congress."

The opinion further states: "While we are mindful of the seriousness of the crimes at issue, we cannot abdicate our duty to faithfully apply a valid limitations period."

Seale was still being held at a federal prison Tuesday night.

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