PHILADELPHIA, Miss. -- A former Ku Klux Klansman accused in the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers ordered fellow Klansmen to attack the three men and then went to a funeral home to create an alibi for himself, according to testimony read in court yesterday.
The 1967 testimony from James Jordan -- a member of the Klan who became a government witness, but has since died -- was read to the jury on the second day of 80-year-old Edgar Ray Killen's murder trial. Jordan testified that Killen, a Klan leader, told a group of Klansmen that the three men had been arrested and ordered them to ''pick them up and tear their butts up."
Killen showed the group where the men were jailed and where to wait to hunt them down once they were released, Jordan said. He said that as carloads of Klansmen drove off to intercept the three doomed men, they stopped to let Killen off at a funeral home.
''He said he had to go there because if anything happened, he would be the first one questioned," Jordan said in the 1967 testimony. Killen has said he was at a wake when James Chaney, a black Mississippian, and Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, white New Yorkers, were killed.
Killen is on trial in the deaths of the three men, who were in the town to investigate the burning of a black church. They were stopped for speeding, jailed briefly, and then released, after which they were ambushed by a gang of Klansmen.
The men were beaten and shot to death, their bodies found 44 days later buried in an earthen dam.
Killen stood trial on federal charges in 1967, but the all-white jury could not reach a verdict. He could get life in prison if convicted in the state trial.
Yesterday's testimony was dominated by witnesses who have long since died: Because many of those who testified in 1967 are no longer available, prosecutors got permission to put their co-workers on the stand and have them read transcripts of the earlier testimony.
Defense attorneys then had the stand-in witnesses read sections of the 1967 cross-examinations.
Killen, who spent Thursday night in the hospital for elevated blood pressure, was rolled into court in a wheelchair for yesterday's session.
During part of the transcript reading, Killen appeared to nod off. At other times, he read along from a copy of the transcript he held in his lap.