JACKSON, Miss. - The conviction of a reputed member of the Ku Klux Klan linked to the slayings of two black Mississippi teenagers in 1964 was overturned Tuesday by the 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals, NBC affiliate WLBT reported.
James Ford Seale was sentenced in August 2007 to three life terms for kidnapping and conspiracy.
In its ruling, the court in New Orleans vacated Seale's conviction and rendered a judgment of acquittal, WLBT reported.
Seale's attorney challenged federal prosecutors on several points, including the admission of Seale's klan affiliation into testimony.
Seale was found guilty in June 2007 of conspiring to abduct Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, two 19-year-olds who disappeared from Franklin County on May 2, 1964.
The prosecution’s star witness against Seale was Charles Marcus Edwards, a confessed Klansman who received immunity from prosecution for his admitted role in the abductions and his testimony.
He testified that Seale and other Klansmen abducted Dee and Moore near Meadville, forced them into the trunk of Seale’s Volkswagen and drove them to a farm. The two were later tied up and driven across the Mississippi River into Louisiana.
Edwards said Seale told him that heavy weights were attached to the teenagers and they were then dumped alive into the river.
Seale was arrested on a state murder charge in 1964, but the charge was later dropped. Federal prosecutors say the state charges were dropped because local law enforcement officers in 1964 were in collusion with the Klan.
Their decomposed remains were later discovered in the Mississippi River