NAACP leader's killer dies in prison

JACKSON, Miss., Jan. 22 -- Byron De La Beckwith died in a Mississippi prison at age 80, almost seven years after he was convicted of the death of civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

Beckwith was pronounced dead Sunday night at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, where he had been taken after complaining of chest pains during the afternoon.


Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart said Beckwith had a history of heart disease.

Beckwith, a retired fertilizer salesman, was convicted of the 1963 slaying of NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers on Feb. 5, 1994, and was sentenced to life in prison. The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld his conviction in 1997.

He had been tried twice in 1964, but in each case an all-white jury was unable to reach a verdict. The case was reopened in 1989 after the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger newspaper reported that the state-sponsored segregationist Mississippi Sovereignty Commission had influenced Beckwith's second trial.

Beckwith was convicted in 1994 by a jury of eight blacks and four whites. Evers' killing was the subject of the 1997 film "Ghosts of Mississippi."

Beckwith's second wife, 90-year-old Thelma Neff Beckwith, has maintained her husband's innocence. She says that Edgars was having dinner at the home of an attorney friend at the time of the killing.


Grisham-Stewart said an autopsy would be held Monday evening to determine Beckwith's cause of death.NEWLN:

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