Ex-Klansman convicted in slayings sues FBI

Associated Press / February 26, 2010

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JACKSON, Miss. - A former Ku Klux Klansman convicted in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers has sued the FBI, claiming the government used a mafia hit man to pistol-whip and intimidate witnesses for information in the case.

Edgar Ray Killen, 85, a former saw mill operator and onetime Baptist preacher, was convicted in 2005 of manslaughter based in part on testimony from a mistrial 40 years ago in Mississippi.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court seeks millions of dollars in damages and a declaration that Killen’s rights were violated when the FBI allegedly used a gangster known as “The Grim Reaper’’ in the case.

“Money is secondary; we really just want the truth out,’’ said Robert A. Ratliff of Mobile, Ala., who represents Killen. “What we’re looking for is the complete, unredacted FBI file. Stand up and tell us what happened.’’

Killen has maintained his innocence in the killings. He is serving a 60-year sentence at a prison in central Mississippi.

Ratliff said one of the defense lawyers, the late Clayton Lewis, who represented Killen, was a paid FBI informant.