Byron De La Beckwith, the man accused of killing civil rights leader Medgar Evers, has been tried for the crime twice but was never convicted. New evidence in the case warrants yet another retrial.
White Supremacist to Be Retried for Medgar Evers Murder
TOM BROKAW, anchor:
In Jackson, Mississippi, today, a timewarp--a murder trial that recalls a 30-year-old tragedy: the cold-blooded killing of civil-rights leader Medgar Evers. An old suspect is back on trial, but as NBC's Bob Dotson tells us tonight, this time with some new reality.
BOB DOTSON reporting:
Byron De La Beckwith, an avowed racist, sees something in this trial he did not see during his first two--black faces in the jury box. Eight of them and four whites heard Prosecutor Bobby Delauter say he had new evidence, after 30 years, linking Beckwith to the killing of civil-rights leader Medgar Evers.
Mr. BYRON DE LA BECKWITH (Defendant): I didn't kill Medgar Evers, but he's sure dead. He ain't coming back.
DOTSON: Beckwith still wears his bigotry like a shiny badge. He was arrested in 1963 after Evers was ambushed in his own driveway, shot in the back. The bullet came from Beckwith's gun, found near the murder scene.
Mr. BECKWITH: My rifle was stolen out of my house.
DOTSON: Beckwith's fingerprint--less than 12 hours old--was the only one on the weapon. In 1964, two all-white, all-male juries deadlocked, then set him free. Evers' old home is boarded up now, and there are those even in this neighborhood who wonder why this case is being retried after so long a time.
Ms. PALM HAWTHORNE (Evers' Neighbor): He's an old man. He's not going to spend too much time in prison, so why bother?
DOTSON: If convicted, Beckwith could get life in prison. He's 73.
Ms. MYRLIE EVERS (Widow): What does age have to do with murder? What does age have to do with injustice? History is on trial.
DOTSON: And this time, black Americans will help determine its outcome--voters pulled from the roles Medgar Evers help fill. Even in death, he has balanced the scales. Bob Dotson, NBC News, Jackson, Mississippi.
Synopsis: Civil rights activist Medgar Evers was born on July 2, 1925, in Decatur, Mississippi. In 1954, he became the first state field secretary of the NAACP in Mississippi. As such, he organized voter-registration efforts, demonstrations, and economic boycotts of companies that practiced discrimination.