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Second Mistrial in Murder Case Against Beckwith

Apr. 17, 1964 - A second mistrial was declared today in the murder case against Byron De La Beckwith, the accused killer of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, after the jury of white men (pictured exiting the courthouse today) reported it was unable to agree on a verdict.

Two hours later, the 43-year-old defendant was freed, under $10,000 bond, for the first time since his arrest last June 22. He slipped into an unmarked car from the side door of the Hinds County Courthouse and was taken away under police guard to his home in Greenwood, Miss.

Judge Leon F. Hendrick, who set bail after declaring the mistrial, said the question of a third trial would be decided sometime next month.

District Attorney William L. Waller, who has vigorously prosecuted the case, said he was undecided whether he would seek a third trial.

“I think the defense case was much better this time,” Mr. Waller told reporters. “I don’t see any reason to assume we can put on a better case; I don’t know what my attitude will be in the future.” Mr. Waller said he understood the jury was about equally divided, as in the first trial. Other reports, however, said the vote was 8-4 for acquittal.

There is no limit under Mississippi law to the number of times a case may be tried. If both sides and the judge agree, it can be sent to the files, but the defendant then remains under indictment.

The chief defense attorney, Hardy Lott, said he assumed Beckwith would return to his job as a fertilizer salesman.

Mr. Evers, state field secretary for the NAACP, was shot in the back as he stepped from his car shortly after midnight last June 12.

Charles Evers, who succeeded his brother in the NAACP post, said today the fact that some jurors had voted for conviction “is encouraging and shows progress toward the goal of justice in Mississippi.”

However, Mr. Evers noted that former Governor Ross Barnett and a large number of whites, including Ku Klux Klan leaders, had come to the courtroom openly supporting the defendant. “Such actions were sufficient to warrant a mistrial,” he said.

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