Medgar Evers – Part 2

MartinKentFilms

Medgar Evers death served as a rallying cry for the movement two months later on August 28th 1963 a crowd of 250,000 gathered for a historic march in Washington [Music] it was the largest demonstration for human rights that America had ever seen black and white Jew Protestant and Catholic had come together with the hope that equality liberty and justice would prevail for everyone but as for the man accused of killing my car Evers he wasn’t even close to coming to justice the investigation into the June 12th 1963 murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers soon pointed to Mississippi white supremacist Byron de la Beckwith I think Beckwith felt like n-double-a-cp as he turned in his own words was the monster the enemy all those things and so therefore Medgar Evers was the symbolic head of that in Mississippi it wasn’t just hatred for an individual human being but hatred for an entire race of people there was a fair amount of incriminating evidence including the proverbial smoking gun Beckwith’s thirty-aught-six rifle thrown down in panic had been found at the scene of the crime he’d attempted to wipe off his fingerprints but one print for Maine Beckwith was subsequently arrested and charged with murder in 1964 a trial was held to no one’s surprise an all-white all-male jury failed to convict Beckwith mocked the justice system saying they can’t convict me when he left Jackson the highway was lined with people holding signs welcoming him as a hero that hurt that made me angry still

 

Beckwith hadn’t been acquitted he’d gotten a hung jury prosecutors tried again but fared no better another hung jury for the next two and a half decades Beckwith was a free man often spewing his racist ideology to whomever would listen then in 1989 a series of events began that would bring Beckwith back to court it started when clarion-ledger investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell got a hold of long secret documents from a venn defunct Mississippi sovereignty Commission a secret state-sponsored group that spied on civil rights activists Michell discovered documents proving that the sovereignty Commission had interfered with the judicial process prior to daily Beckwith’s trial I got leaks of sovereignty Commission records which are still sealed and they showed that the Commission had in fact helped out Beckwith’s defense at the time the state sovereignty Commission was involved in helping Beckwith lawyers pick the jury so you had one arm of the state of Mississippi trying their best to get back with convicted and you have another arm of the state aiding and assisting the accused murderer when megha Evers Widow learned of this she was eager to see a new trial held one in which there was no duplicity during the jury selection process it was a thing of staying on top of it because no one wanted to touch the case and I said we’ve come this far and

I can’t let go in 1989 Myrlie Evers convinced Jackson Mississippi District Attorney ed Peters to reopen the case Peters assigned Bobby DeLaughter to take the brief we begin to find things about December of 1990 we had as much or more and that 25 year old murder case than I do in many so-called contemporary homicide cases in 1994 Beckwith in his 70s was brought to trial for a third time perhaps the most important testimony came from six people who’d met Beckwith after the murder Beckwith had bragged to them that it was he who was responsible these were people that Beckwith thought would have been impressed at the time the statements were made with what he had done see Beckwith wanted to get the credit for murdering Medgar Evers but he didn’t want to have to pay the price for but in 1994 31 years after the fact Beckwith could no longer laugh at justice a jury of 12 men and women that this time included eight blacks found Byron de la Beckwith guilty of the murder of Medgar Evers he was sentenced to life in prison Marilee Evers could finally put her 30 years struggle to rest all of the ghosts all of the evil little bits surrounding this case escaped from my body at the time the guilty verdict was read I became renewed my children became renewed because finally justice prevailed it was liberating the hurt the pain will always be a part of my life but there’s hope that’s vision for brighter tomorrow and it’s so good to say medgar you did not die in vain you [Music]