Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jury Gets Case of Man Tried in Evers Killing

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jury Gets Case of Man Tried in Evers Killing

Article excerpt

Pleading for justice for the family of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, prosecutors urged jurors Friday to convict Byron De La Beckwith of murder.

"He has danced to the music for 30 years," Assistant District Attorney Bobby DeLaughter told jurors before they received the case. "Isn't it time that he pay the piper? Is it ever too late to do the right thing?"

The jury of eight blacks and four whites deliberated five hours Friday before recessing in the third murder trial of Beckwith, an avowed white supremacist. The deliberations are scheduled to resume this morning.

Beckwith is accused of fatally shooting Evers outside Evers' home on June 12, 1963, as he returned from a black voter-registration rally.

Beckwith watched languidly as first DeLaughter and then Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters asked jurors to do what two all-white juries in 1964 did not do: find him guilty of Evers' murder.

"All we're asking you people to do is to give the Evers family some justice. Just justice after 30 years," Peters said.

"Don't let him walk out of here again and continue to brag about it . . . to anybody who will listen."

In the front row of the courtroom, Evers' widow, Myrlie, watched tensely, sometimes clasping the hand of her son, Darrell Kenyatta Evers, who sat beside her.

Between the two prosecutors' arguments, Beckwith's two court-appointed attorneys urged the jurors to overlook their personal feelings and acquit the defendant for lack of evidence, some of which has been lost over the years.

"You're not here to decide whether you like Byron De La Beckwith, whether you agree with Byron De La Beckwith, whether you want to take him home with you or join his organizations," said Jim Kitchens, one of the attorneys.

"Forget that it's Byron De La Beckwith. . . . Judge this case on the evidence."

The closing arguments followed 5 1/2 days of testimony and contrasted sharply with attorneys' statements 30 years ago. Then, the prosecutor opened by saying: "I am a segregationist. I don't believe any good can come by the forced mixing of the races."

Then, the prosecution asked jurors to convict Beckwith despite his pro-segregation views, which many shared. …

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