Edgar Ray Killen, who was convicted of killing three civil rights workers in 1964, allegedly wrote confessions to a former inmate, but the reputed Klansman's attorney says the letters are bogus.
Killen, 86, allegedly wrote a series of letters saying he'd admit to his role in the killings that inspired the 1988 film "Mississippi Burning" if he could be placed under house arrest, The Clarion-Ledgerreported this week.
A handwriting expert brought on by the newspaper concluded the jailhouse missives matched other writing by Killen, who in 2005 was sentenced to 60 years for the deaths of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.
A lawyer for Killen declared that the alleged notes are forgeries, according to TV station WAPT.
Instead, Killen is fighting to overturn his conviction, lawyer Robert Ratliff told the station.
Yet former inmate James Stern, who is black, says that the aging KKK member readily admitted to the infamous murders -- and about 30 other racially motivated slayings -- and stands by his claim that the contested letters from as recently as October are the real deal.
Chaney, who was black, and Goodman and Schwerner, who were white, were killed on June 21, 1964 in the town of Philadelphia. They were volunteers registerring black voters. That night they went to investigate a church burning the night of their deaths. Police arrested them on phony charges. Hours later upon their release, they were picked up by Ku Klux Klan members who beat them to death. Their remains were found in early August buried outside the town.
Killen allegedly walked the three men in their early 20s down a path before they were lynched, according to WAPT. He was convicted of manslaughter.
"I'll admit to the 1964 case and drop all appeals and something they haven't expected is I'll plead no contest to the 32 cold cases I'm sure they expect I'm involved in," one letter says. Stern, released in early November, took the material to the state attorney general, The Clarion-Ledger says.
Killen hoped to cut a deal so he could spend his waning days with his wife, The Clarion-Ledger says.
If Killen were serious about admitting his guilt, he would likely have to take a polygraph test or provide corroborating information, the attorney general's office told the Jackson newspaper.