Friday, January 13, 2012

Former governor, prosecutor in Medgar Evers murder case dies

Former Mississippi Gov. William Waller Sr, who unsuccessfully prosecuted Medgar Evers' murderer, Byron de la Beckwith twice (both cases ended with hung juries) died in December at age 85.

The following is taken from Mississippi Link:

Waller began his public service career in 1960 as District Attorney for the Seventh Judicial District, which then included Hinds, Madison, and Yazoo counties. As District Attorney, he is best remembered for his prosecution of Byron de la Beckwith for the June 12, 1963, murder of Medgar Evers.
This was the first civil rights murder prosecution in the state of Mississippi.
Though the prosecution by Waller ended in two mistrials, the trial testimony of almost 60 witnesses and the introduction of more than 50 pieces of evidence were preserved. The trial transcript was crucial in 1994 when prosecutor Bobby DeLaughter, using the same physical evidence Waller used, was able to secure a guilty verdict when blacks were able to serve on the jury.
Beckwith was sentenced to life in prison and died on Jan. 21, 2001 at the age of 80.
Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice William "Bill" Waller Jr. said his father's prosecution of Beckwith inspired him to pursue a legal career. The prosecution of Beckwith "was a watershed event that moved Mississippi toward equal treatment of all people," Chief Justice Waller said.
A Democrat, the elder Waller served as governor from 1972-76 - a time when Mississippi governors were limited to one term.

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