Seale Wants Freedom | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Seale Wants Freedom

The flawed record of Dr. Stephen Hayne was at issue when James Ford Seale took his 2007 conviction before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals this week.

A jury took two hours on June 14, 2007, to convict Seale, a reputed Klansman, of kidnapping and conspiracy charges in the deaths of Charles Moore and Henry Dee, both 19 when they disappeared in May 1964. Two months later, investigators pulled their decomposed remains from an offshoot of the Mississippi River.

The court heard arguments on only two questions Monday: whether a statute of limitations exists on the federal kidnapping charge and whether the court should have allowed Dr. Steven Hayne's testimony to support it.

Hayne had testified that the cause of death for the two teenaged boys was drowning. If true, the prosecution argued, they were alive when Seale took them across state lines, justifying the federal charge of kidnapping.

"The defense took the position that Dr. Hayne's testimony ... was not supported by any scientific evidence and was, therefore, improper under the law," argued Kathy Nester, Seale's federal public defender.

Nester also argued that based on U.S. v. Jackson in 1968 and a congressional amendment to the kidnapping laws in 1972, the statute of limitations on kidnapping has expired. Those decisions, she said, apply retroactively to the 1964 Moore-Dee kidnappings. Nester indicated that in the U.S., changing a law after the fact (ex post facto) applies retroactively when the change does not harm the defendant.

"If (U.S. v Jackson) didn't do it, the '72 amendment sure as hell did," Nestor said.

U.S. Department of Justice attorney Tovah Calderon argued that the '68 and '72 decisions do not apply retroactively, and therefore, because the kidnappings are capital offenses and no statue of limitations exist.

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