Case closed: time catches up with ‘Mississippi Burning’ case after 52 Years

Federal prosecutors have closed the investigation into the killings of three civil rights workers who disappeared more than 50 years ago in Mississippi. The 1964 killings of James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Neshoba County sparked national outrage and helped to bring in the Civil Rights Act. The case, one of more than 125 which remain unsolved from the civil rights era, later became the subject of Oscar-winning movie Mississippi Burning. Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said the decision “closes a chapter” in the state’s divisive civil rights history.

The evidence has been degraded by memory over time, and so there are no individuals that are living now that we can make a case on at this point.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood

But he said if new information came forward due to the announcement that the case was closed, prosecutors could reconsider and pursue a case. Mr Hood presented a 48-page report by the FBI which revealed authorities concluded the three men were killed as part of a Ku Klux Klan conspiracy. The men, all in their 20s, had been working to register African-American voters when they disappeared on 21 June, 1964. Their bodies were found weeks later under thick red clay of an earthen dam near Philadelphia, Mississippi. In 1967, eight people were convicted of federal civil rights violations related to their deaths. In 2005, three manslaughter convictions were made against white supremacist Edgar Ray Killen, who remains in prison.