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Trial Of Reputed Klansman Moves Into Final Phases 43 Years After Victims' Deaths

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ As his trial drew to a close, reputed Klansman James Ford Seale chose to say nothing to jurors who will determine what role if any he played in the deaths of two black teenagers 43 years ago.

``Have you elected not to testify?'' U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate asked Wednesday.

``Yes sir,'' replied Seale, standing at the defense table.

With that, the judge set closing arguments for Thursday, and the jury of eight whites and four blacks was expected to start deliberating by the afternoon.

The 71-year-old Seale, charged with kidnapping and conspiracy, faces life in prison if convicted.

He pleaded not guilty to taking part in the attacks on Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee. The 19-year-olds disappeared from southwest Mississippi's Franklin County on May 2, 1964.

Prosecutors spent seven days detailing how they allege Seale took part in abducting, beating and dumping Dee, a lumber mill worker, and Moore, a college student.

Seale's attorneys offered four witnesses, including Don Seale. He testified that he didn't know whether his older brother had any involvement with the Klan.

Don Seale did identify a picture of a man in a red Klan robe as another brother, Jack Seale. Prosecutors have shown that image to jurors several times since the trial started last week.

Don Seale said ``half of Franklin County'' was thought to be in the Klan in 1964.

Prosecutors' star witness, Charles Marcus Edwards, testified last week that he and James Ford Seale belonged to a Klan chapter, or ``klavern,'' led by the defendant's late father, Clyde Seale.

Edwards and James Ford Seale were arrested on state murder charges in 1964 in the disappearance of Dee and Moore, but the charges were dropped. Prosecutors say local law enforcement officers at the time were in collusion with the Klan.

Edwards, granted immunity from prosecution in this case, testified that he saw Seale hold a sawed-off shotgun on the teenagers while they were beaten and interrogated about rumors that firearms were being stockpiled in a black church.

He said Seale later told him about putting duct tape over the mouths of Dee and Moore, driving them through Louisiana and then dumping them into a remote backwater of the Mississippi River south of Vicksburg.

Parts of their badly decomposed bodies were found more than two months after their disappearance.

Thomas Moore, the older brother of victim Charles Eddie Moore, said he'll be at peace with whatever verdict jurors reach.

``I'm going to walk away from here and say, 'Thomas Moore did all that I could do,''' said the 63-year-old Army veteran, who pushed federal authorities to reopen the long-forgotten investigation of the slayings.
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