Federal jury expected to get Seale case today|[06/14/07]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 14, 2007

JACKSON – Closing arguments and jury deliberations are expected to begin today in the kidnapping and conspiracy trial of reputed Ku Klux Klansman James Ford Seale.

The 71-year-old is accused of taking part in the deadly attacks on two black teenagers, Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee. The two, both 19, went missing from Franklin County on May 2, 1964.

Seale was indicted in January and has pleaded not guilty. He has opted to not take the stand. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

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On Wednesday, the defense called four witnesses, two of whom have Vicksburg ties.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employee John Barnes testified, using maps, about the Mississippi River’s course and its tributaries near Vicksburg.

He was called by the defense to show doubt about where the state line between Mississippi and Louisiana is along the river where the remains of Dee and Moore were found. Crossing state lines is necessary to get a conviction on the kidnapping charges.

&#8220A map cannot accurately show exactly where state lines are,” Barnes said.

The defense also called James P. Lynn, a boatmaker from south Warren County whose father used to push barges on the Mississippi River, including one owned by Ernest Parker, a reputed Klansmen prosecutors say was involved in taking Dee and Moore to where they were dumped in the water.

&#8220I knew they had land on the island (Davis Island),” Lynn said. &#8220They used to transfer cotton onto my daddy’s barge.”

Seale’s brother, Don Seale, was also called to the witness stand Wednesday. When asked by public defender Kathy Nester about his brother’s involvement with the Klan, Seale was vague.

&#8220I suspected it,” he said. &#8220Half of Franklin County was suspected of being in the Klan. As far as knowing, lady, I don’t know.”

Don Seale, who denies being a member of the Klan, said he had spoken with his brother only twice in the past 25 years, due to a family dispute, but said the two had been close at the time of the murders.

He spoke about the night his brother was arrested, Nov. 6, 1964, before the state charges against him were dropped.

In 1965, Seale filed an affidavit that he had been hit by Mississippi Highway Patrol officer Ford O’Neal during the arrest.

Don Seale testified his brother &#8220had sore ribs and red spots on his face,” that night and that his brother’s house was &#8220tore up.”

Also on Wednesday forensic pathologist Dr. James Lauridson was called to the stand by Nester in an attempt to prove the two teenagers were killed after being beaten in Homochitto National Park in Mississippi, then taken to the river.

Lauridson said that because the bodies were so decomposed, there were no traces of lungs or stomach organs in either body. Because of that, he could not determine if there was water in the organs, which would indicate death by drowning.

Prosecutor Eric Gibson, of the Justice Department, asked Lauridson if he thought the victims’ legs would have been bound if they had been dead when thrown in the water.

&#8220In general, one could assume that,” said Lauridson, adding that drowning could not be ruled out as a cause of death.

But, because the bodies had been in the water a month or more before being found, an exact cause of death, time of death or place of death could not be determined.