UPDATED: Dee-Moore Families Sue County for Colluding with Klan | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

UPDATED: Dee-Moore Families Sue County for Colluding with Klan

Read full complaint here. (PDF)

The families of Charles Moore and Henry Dee filed a lawsuit yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi against Franklin County, claiming that county officials worked "in a collusive and unlawful relationship" with the Ku Klux Klan and that "in 1964 defendant Franklin County had an unlawful, racially motivated policy and practice of protecting the Ku Klux Klan."

"Franklin County is very tense, and this is going to make it worse," said Moore's cousin Arthur Mac Littleton from his home in Bude, Miss.

The lawsuit names eight counts against the county: Violations of "Equal Benefit of the Laws"; Municipal Liability—Sheriff Hutto as Policymaker; Conspiracy; Wrongful Death; Wrongful Death Based on Conspiracy to Commit Intentional Murder; Survival Action Based on Conspiracy to Commit Intentional Murder; Assault and Battery; and Reckless Disregard for the Rights and Safety of Plaintiffs.

The complaint (PDF), filed by attorneys Dennis Sweet III and Warren L. Martin Jr. of Jackson, says the county's racist "policy had the purpose and effect of depriving African Americans and others of their constitutional right to be protected from murder and other crimes of racial violence," as well as equal protection, equal benefit of the laws under the 13th Amendment and access to the courts as granted under the First Amendment.

Sweet said the county should be liable because Hutto represented the county while assisting terrorist activity.

"Should we say that if someone harms you and makes it just go away for long enough that you shouldn't be responsible? That was their representative," Sweet said Thursday afternoon. "The county injured people. The fact that time passes shouldn't relieve anybody of their responsibility to compensate folks for what happened. You can't move forward until you make up for the wrongs of the past. How can you lock up young kids for breaking the law if the government is immune?"

The lawsuit is referring to the murders of the Dee and Moore, both 19, on May 2, 1964, a case the Jackson Free Press chronicled in a series of "Road to Meadville" stories after a June 2005 visit to Franklin and Adam counties with Thomas Moore, the brother of Charles Moore, who was looking for justice. Thomas Moore and Thelma Collins, a sister of Henry Dee, are named plaintiffs in the case, who also represent "all the wrongful death beneficiaries and heirs at law of Charles Eddie Moore, deceased, and Henry Hezekiah Dee, deceased."

"That was my first encounter with racism," Rose Gibbs said, referring to the murder of her cousin Charles Moore. "They should have (sued) years ago."

James Ford Seale, who the Jackson Free Press and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., along with Moore, discovered alive on the initial 2005 visit, as reported in this July 20, 2005, story, was convicted in federal court last year of kidnapping and conspiracy. Previous to the June 2005 visit, the Associated Press, The Clarion-Ledger and other media had reported that he was dead when he was, in fact, openly living in a motor home with his wife next to his brother's house in Roxie. It was widely known in the area that he was alive.

Twenty-nine-year-old April Hilburn, manager of Georgeanne's Deli and Gifts in Meadville, had not heard about the lawsuit on Thursday morning, but said she supported James Ford Seale being brought to justice. Hilburn, who is white, said she didn't know anything about the Dee/Moore murders prior to Seale's indictment, but added that criminal cold-case prosecutions of Klansmen wasn't "a bad idea."

"Just because time has passed, doesn't mean people shouldn't have to pay," she said. "They still did it. If they did it one time, they'll do it again."

The complaint against the county lists several "matters" including threats of and violence against two men, Rev. Clyde Briggs, who singlehandledly took on the Klan, and Burl Jones, who says he was a victim of violence by the Klan and the county sheriff's department that drove him out of Mississippi for many years.

These two stories were reported in detail by the Jackson Free Press, which revealed publicly that a Klan confession in 1964 FBI files said that the Klansmen beating Moore and Dee with bean sticks, as they were tied to a tree, wanted to know who was giving guns to African Americans. One of the young men said Rev. Clyde Briggs, who was indeed hiding guns, according to family members, as reported by the Jackson Free Press.

"It is also a case about the systemic denial by Franklin County of law enforcement protection to African Americans and to whites suspected of opposing the Klan's campaign of terror," the complaint states.

The case is demanding compensatory, economic, non-economic, exemplary and hedonic damanges, as well as the costs of the action and attorney's fees.

Reporting in Franklin County by Lauren Beattie, Matthew Caston, Luke Darby, Ward Schaefer and Donna Ladd. Additional reporting by Adam Lynch.

Read full complaint here. (PDF)
Complaint cover sheet. (PDF)
JFP "Road to Meadville" Blog/Archive

Previous Comments

ID
132894
Comment

The complaint is 30 pages, and I'm reading through and will post more soon. It's a blast from the (recent) past to read about Burl Jones, Rev. Briggs and others. I'll never forget interviewing Mr. Jones sitting in the McDonalds in Natchez and hearing his chilling story, or when Rev. Briggs' son called me after my first story came out to say the FBI report was talking about his father. And then watching him testify on the stand during the Seale trial. This story goes so many directions, all of them important. Upon getting this complaint, I immediately thought of Mary Lou Webb, the newspaper editor in Franklin County who ran an editorial after our initial visit there against re-opening the case, and then refused to run Thomas' response. He asked us to run it in full, which we did here. Last year during the Seale trial, Luke Darby and I sat in the Franklin County Library and went through copies of the Franklin County Advocate from the 1960s. It was clear that Mary Lou Webb's husband, David (then the editor), was very cozy with the Americans for the Preservation of the White Race, which was a front group for the Klan. He ran their ads on the front page of the paper and promoted their events in his column. And he shows up in the Sovereignty Files in relation to the group. Read the piece I wrote about there here.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-08-06T19:52:06-06:00
ID
132895
Comment

Wow, this is deep. If the families win this case, it could set a major precedent for a lot of victims' families.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-08-06T20:20:16-06:00
ID
132896
Comment

It is deep. But their families are owed so, so much. Their loved ones were just wiped off the planet, and the state and the county didn't care. They were just gone. The feds cared enough to do an investigation, but then gave it to the locals who did nothing. They could have, but they didn't. It's also big news. No one else has reported it, yet, it seems. I suspect it'll blow up when the story gets around. That's an intense complaint (now posted above). It's wild to read it. Doing research down there, I heard most of those names and stories—Jack Davis, Archie Prather and so on—but they were difficult to prove well enough to put in the paper then. Most of them came up during the trial, though, and now with this complaint history will take its turn with them. And Rev. Briggs was/is simply a remarkable story. Recall that the bullet is still lodged in the wall in the house where one of his sons live. The more times his story is told, the better. And the "Krazy Klucker in the Korner" stories most media tell do not do these men justice. Most reporters never notice men like Rev. Briggs and Burl Jones.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-08-06T20:42:35-06:00
ID
132899
Comment

Hallelujah. Good for the Dee and Moore families! And Donna, my first thought was Mary Lou Webb, too--sounds like this stuff runs very very deep. All of the folks who weren't in on it directly (and we'll never know how many people were) seem to have been impacted, directly or indirectly, by the culture of silence surrounding the murders. And obviously there was not a single white person in the whole damn county, not one, who really had a fire under their butt to get these murders solved. A lot of people have a lot to answer for. Here's hoping the lawsuit is successful beyond the plaintiffs' wildest dreams.

Author
Tom Head
Date
2008-08-06T23:00:07-06:00
ID
132904
Comment

If Dennis and Martin can overcome the summary judgment motion based on immunity, statute having run, et al, they might be on to something. I wish the families well in this suit. Seem meritorius even if summarily dismissed at some point. Newly discoverd facts may give them an out from any summary judgment.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-08-07T09:22:22-06:00
ID
132912
Comment

Astoundingly, I'm thinking along the same lines as Walt. For once, so don't get your hopes up. As meritorious as this is, I'm not sure it'd ever work. I don't think the judiciary would allow such mass chaos at the state, local and national level. On the other hand, if you can find new information to use elsewhere against more people, it might be worth it to track down more killers.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2008-08-07T14:38:19-06:00
ID
132914
Comment

We're in Franklin County today, and I talked to Mary Lou Webb. Kind of. She never seems too pleased when I show up at her door. Too bad; we could probably find a lot to talk about. ;-) More soon.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-08-07T16:20:37-06:00
ID
132963
Comment

I have not read the entire complaint and have not researched it to the proper level to render a legal opinion. From my brief glance at the complaint, and IT IS BRIEF GLANCE, I stress again, I do wonder about the actual legal footing. Certainly there was an injustice- a cold blooded murder-, there was a tort, (for us lawyers out there) but statute of limitations..... even in a conspiracy the conspiracy was discovered arguably upon arrest. Definitely upon conviction. 1 year statute of limitations on an intentional tort certainly applies and then..... I wish them luck. These families are victims and were injured by a racist organization. If they can prove every thing and hold the county for actions that were taken that were illegal, godspeed. I am sure there "might" be a link. If it is proven and the claim fits under the law, I hope the families own every building in the county that is owned by the county. I am just unclear on how to tie it all in without the judiciary giving damages that are due morally without any legal ground. As much as I want the moral damages awarded, I still think the law applies. If we start awarding what is "right" who ever is on the court or in power decides what is "right" That scares me AGamma627

Author
AGamm627
Date
2008-08-10T00:34:43-06:00
ID
132964
Comment

OK re-reading my last post seemed a little cold. I was simply worrying about precedent and legal formalities. They worry me. If the Klan is denied its legal rights due to its beliefs (which are horrible) it affects us all. IF the courts make precedent that evil people have to pay and the courts will bend the law to make it work, I am afraid. bending the law scares me I am a firm believer in the rights of the most vile are the rights that should be defended. For if we take there rights.... where is the end? That is why the ACLU defends the groups that I consider VILE.... Yet I support the ACLU AGAMMA627

Author
AGamm627
Date
2008-08-10T00:41:43-06:00

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