Wednesday, May 23, 2007

[JFP] The Klansman Bound: 43 Years Later, James Ford Seale Faces Justice

by Matt Saldaña
May 23, 2007

Shuffling behind a young black woman in an identical orange jumpsuit, James Ford Seale entered the fourth-floor courtroom of the James O. Eastland Federal Building in Jackson on Feb. 22 with shackles hanging loosely around his waist and ankles, and his hands cuffed in front of him. The 71-year-old retired cropduster from Roxie, Miss., wore thin wire glasses, orange sandals and thick white socks. The words “Madison County Jail” were printed across his slight, but well-postured back. He stood no taller than 5’8” and looked to weigh about 125 pounds, but he showed traces of his muscular past with a thick neck that recalled his open-collared mug shot from 1964—the year he was arrested and released weeks later for the murders of two black teenagers in Franklin County.

As a U.S. marshal led him to a seat next to his lawyers, Seale smiled at his wife, Jean Seale, who sat in the front row on the defense’s side of the court. One of his stepsons-in-law arrived late, scanning the half-empty room with his buzzed head held high as he placed his arm around Seale’s stepdaughter, a blonde woman in high heels who blew bubbles with her gum. Other than flashes of eye contact with his family, Seale sat upright and still. At one point, he turned to stare at a large security camera behind a glass plane, high in the back corner of the courtroom.

When U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate—the court’s black-robed, baritone-pitched voice of authority—granted the defense a 15-minute recess to review case history, Seale sat still and looked at the ground.

One month earlier, on Jan. 24, 2007, a federal jury had indicted Seale for two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy leading to the deaths of Charles Moore and Henry Dee, the 19-year-olds beaten by members of the Ku Klux Klan in the Homochitto National Forest and then drowned in a backwater of the Mississippi River in 1964. The prosecutors believe that Seale chose Dee and Moore because they thought Dee, who had just returned from living in Chicago, was involved in civil rights activity in the area.

Five days later, in a packed courtroom on a lower level of the Eastland Building, U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson denied bond to Seale, stating, “Neither the weight of the crime nor its circumstances have been diminished by the passage of time.”

It had been 42 years and eight months since Dee and Moore died, the longest wait for a case to be successfully tried in a civil rights era killing.

[View the entire article at the Jackson Free Press.]