Mississippi Cold Case
200px
Original postcard
Directed by David Ridgen
Produced by David Ridgen
Written by David Ridgen
Music by Johnny Cash
The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band
Elmo Williams and Hezekiah Early
Distributed by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation MSNBC
Release date(s) February, 2007
Running time 42 min TV version, unreleased 85 min feature doc
Language English
Budget N/A

Mississippi Cold Case is a feature documentary produced by David Ridgen of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation about the Ku Klux Klan murders of two 19-year-old black youth in 1964 and a brother's quest for justice.

Moore and Dee murders[edit | edit source]

On May 2, 1964, Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee were picked up by KKK members while hitchhiking in Meadville, Mississippi. They were interrogated and tortured in a nearby forest, locked in a trunk, driven across state lines, chained to a Jeep motor and train rails and dropped alive into the Mississippi River. [1][2][3]

Moore and Dee’s mangled torsos were discovered on July 12 and 13, 1964 amidst the frantic search for Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, the three civil rights workers who disappeared June 21 in the “Mississippi Burning” case.[4] When it was discovered that the bodies were those of two black men and not those of the civil rights workers, two of whom were white, media interest evaporated and the press moved on. While the FBI investigated the case and arrested two suspects, they were soon released and the case dropped by local authorities, some of whom were complicit in the crime according to FBI and HUAC documents.[3]

Documentary[edit | edit source]

In June and July 2004, while preparing to shoot another documentary in Mississippi, Ridgen stumbled across a sequence that troubled him in an old 16 mm film produced in Mississippi by the CBC in 1964.[5] The sequence showed a body being taken from a river, but it was the narration over these images that stood out:

It was the wrong body. The finding of a negro male was noted and forgotten. The search was not for him. The search was for two white youths and their negro friend.[5][6]

The film Ridgen was viewing in the CBC archive was called "Summer in Mississippi", and it was about the murders of Mickey Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, the three civil rights workers killed by Klansmen in a case that would become known by its FBI codename, "Mississippi Burning". Ridgen immediately wondered why the body was "forgotten" and how it was determined that this person was "the wrong body". Looking into the story more, Ridgen discovered the identity of the body as that of nineteen year old African American Charles Eddie Moore, a youth according to articles Ridgen read in the Clarion Ledger newspaper from 1999/2000, Don Whitehead's "Attack on Terror", and the Southern Poverty Law Center's online memorial, killed by the Klan while hitchhiking with his friend and fellow victim Henry Hezekiah Dee on May 2, 1964.

Forty-one years after the murders, just weeks before Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen was found guilty of manslaughter in the murders of Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney, David Ridgen convinced Thomas Moore to return to Mississippi to seek justice for his brother and Henry Dee.[7] Filmmaker Ridgen and the CBC organized and funded the entire production.[8] Ridgen has documented Moore on trips spanning over 26 months. A short version of the documentary (34 min.,) premiered on February 11, 2007 on CBC. A one hour version aired on MSNBC on June 9, 2007. A full feature length version of the film has been completed.

Results of the documentary[edit | edit source]

Moore’s quest and the documentary about it first caused state officials to re-open their investigation into the case. The case had been re-opened in 2000 by former US Attorney Brad Pigott, but closed again in June 2003 after Pigott and the USDOJ Civil Rights Division decided not to proceed based on the evidence. It was re-opened in early July 2005 after Moore and Ridgen visited US Attorney Dunn Lampton at his office. Previously, Moore and Ridgen had been told that James Seale was dead by a prominent Mississippi journalist, and it had been reported elsewhere in the media.[1] [2]. Shortly after arriving in Mississippi, Ridgen and Moore were told on the morning of July 8, 2005 by District Attorney Ronnie Harper that Seale was alive, but they did not believe him. [3] Later that day Ridgen and Moore are told by Moore's cousin Kenny Byrd, that Seale is still alive. It is confirmed when Byrd points out Seale's motor home just a short distance away. [4] Through the course of the production of Mississippi Cold Case, pressure put on the murder conspirators and officials by Thomas Moore over more than twenty four months along with other evidence discovered - including the finding of important witnesses willing to testify and new documents - the case was brought before a Grand Jury, and alleged kidnapper and killer, James Ford Seale, was indicted and arrested.[9] On January 24, 2007, Seale appeared in federal court in Jackson, Mississippi, charged with two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to kidnap. Seale pleaded not guilty, and was denied bond on January 29, 2007 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson.

Amid many motion hearings from defense and prosecution, Seale's trial was set for May 30, 2007, in Jackson, Mississippi.[10][11][12] [5] Seale was convicted by a majority-white jury on June 14, 2007.[13]

James Seale was sentenced to three life sentences on August 24, 2007 for conspiracy and two counts of kidnapping where the victims were not released alive.

On August 5, 2008 Thomas Moore and Thelma Collins, Henry Dee's sister, filed a federal complaint in a Natchez, MS court claiming state complicity in the deaths of Henry Dee and Charles Moore. The suit claims that in Franklin County in 1964, Sheriff Wayne Hutto, and his chief deputy, Kirby Shell, conspired with the Klansmen who abducted and killed Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore. The plaintiffs are seeking a federal jury trial for damages.[2][14][15]

Awards[edit | edit source]

Mississippi Cold Case has won several awards, including Best of Festival, at the prestigious Yorkton Film Festival in Canada.[16] The film also picked up Best Social Political Documentary, Best Director (David Ridgen), Best Research (David Ridgen), and Best Editor (Michael Hannan) at Yorkton; the Investigative Reporters and Editor's (IRE) Top Medal for Investigative Journalism;[17] the Canadian Association of Journalism Award for Best Investigative Report Open Television; Best Director at the Canadian Geminis;[18] The English Television "Wilderness" Award for Best Documentary produced in 2007 by the CBC; a Bronze Plaque at the Columbus Festival; and a CINE Golden Eagle Award.[19] The film was nominated for a 2008 Emmy Award for Feature Investigative Documentary.[20]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Dee, Moore families file suit against Franklin County, Miss., in 1964 murders". Concordia Sentinel. 2008-08-11. http://www.concordiasentinel.com/news.php?id=2240. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Families sue Franklin over Klan slayings". Clarion Ledger.com. 2008-08-07. http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080807/NEWS/808070379/1001/news. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Moore and Collins vs. Franklin County" (PDF). 2008-08-05. http://www.clarionledger.com/assets/pdf/D011479086.PDF. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  4. [http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/price&bowers/price&bowers.htm "U. S. vs Cecil Price et al. ("Mississippi Burning" Trial)"]. Douglas O. Linder. 2008. http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/price&bowers/price&bowers.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Cracking a Mississippi Cold Case". Queens Alumni Review. 2007-05-22. http://alumnireview.queensu.dollco.ca/Article/984906-14924696. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  6. "Summer in Mississippe (1965)". The Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0236775/. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  7. Breed, Allen G. (2007-01-26). "Brother Wins Arrest in '64 Case". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/26/AR2007012600198.html?nav=hcmodule. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  8. "Martyr's Brother Seeks Justice". Southern Poverty Law Center. 2005-07-22. http://www.splcenter.org/news/item.jsp?aid=118. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  9. "Brother Wins Arrest in '64 Case". Fox News. 2007-01-25. http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2007Jan25/0,4670,JusticeDelayed,00.html. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  10. "Miss. Murder Cold Case Under Way". San Francisco Chronicle. 2007-05-30. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/05/30/national/a093009D09.DTL. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  11. "Seale trial opening arguments made". Natchez Democrat. 2007-06-04. http://www.natchezdemocrat.com/news/2007/jun/04/eight-whites-four-blacks-comprise-jury-seale-trial/. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  12. "The Klansmen Bound: 43 Years Later, James Ford Seale Faces Justice". Jackson Free Press. 2007-05-23. http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/comments.php?id=13701_0_9_0_C. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  13. "Ex-KKK man guilty in 1964 killing". BBC.com. 2007-06-15. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6755267.stm. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  14. "Dee, Moore families files suit against Franklin County, Miss., in 1964 murders". Concordia Sentinel. 2008-08-11. http://www.theconcordiasentinel.com/news.php?id=2240. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  15. "A righteous quest". The Boston Globe.com. 2008-08-08. http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2008/08/08/a_righteous_quest. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  16. "CANADA'S GOLDEN SHEAF AWARD WINNERS". 2007. http://www.yorktonshortfilm.org/files/File/winners/winners2007.html. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  17. "2007 IRE Award Winners". IRE.org. 2007. http://www.ire.org/contest/07winners.html. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  18. "CBC cold case documentary wins Gemini". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2007-10-15. http://www.cbc.ca/arts/story/2007/10/15/gemini-awards.html. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  19. "CINE Golden Eagle Award Winners". CINE. 2007. http://www.cine.org/winners/w-07-fall.php. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  20. "NOMINEES FOR THE 29th ANNUAL NEWS & DOCUMENTARY EMMY AWARDS ANNOUNCED BY THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF TELEVISION ARTS & SCIENCES". 2008-07-15. http://www.emmyonline.org/mediacenter/news_29th_nominations.html. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 

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