Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Beckwith Convicted of Evers Murder

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Beckwith Convicted of Evers Murder

Article excerpt

More than 30 years after civil rights leader Medgar Evers was shot in the back from ambush, avowed white supremacist Byron de la Beckwith was convicted Saturday of pulling the trigger. He was immediately sentenced to life in prison.

Beckwith was arrested within two weeks of the murder. He twice escaped conviction in 1964 when jurors in two trials failed to reach agreement.

The verdict sent up a cheer among the mostly black crowd attending the trial.

"It's been a long journey," Evers' widow, Myrlie Evers, said in an emotional statement after the verdict. "Medgar," she added, eyes heavenward, "I've gone the last mile."

She had broken into tears after the verdict was read. She clasped the hand of her daughter, Reena Evers-Everett, while her son, Darrell Kenyatta Evers, clapped in jubilation.

Darrell Evers, 9 when his father was slain, said he wanted to attend the trial to confront Beckwith. "He never saw my father's face. All he saw was his back. I wanted him to see the face," Evers said, "to see the ghost of my father come back to haunt him."

Evers-Everett, who was 8 when her father was slain outside their Jackson home, said the pain of her father's death "cannot be erased . . . but now it can be soothed. And I got a whole lot of medicine soothed on me today."

Beckwith's wife, Thelma, broke into sobs after the verdict was read by the court clerk. "He's not guilty," she cried to defense lawyers who tried to comfort her. "He's never been guilty and they know it, they know it."

Hinds County Circuit Judge L. Breland Hilburn announced the life sentence within moments of polling the jurors, who had deliberated for about seven hours Friday and Saturday.

Evers was the Mississippi field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People when he was slain on June 12, 1963. As he was getting out of his car shortly after midnight, a sniper hiding in a clump of sweetgum trees shot him through the back with a .30-06 bullet.

The jurors, eight blacks and four whites, had been chosen 140 miles north of Jackson in Panola County. They were taken home by bus, and upon disembarking in front of the Panola County Courthouse, told reporters that they had agreed not to talk about the case. …

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