JACKSON — Reputed Ku Klux Klansman Edgar Ray Killen claims in new court documents that he didn’t sign over power of attorney or ownership of 40 acres of land to a black former prisoner.
James Stern served time with Killen at a Mississippi prison. He claims Killen, who is serving a 60-year sentence for civil rights-era killings, signed over to him power of attorney, land rights and book and movie rights.
In documents filed Wednesday in Neshoba County Chancery Court, Killen claims his signature was forged and that Stern has neither power of attorney nor claim to the land. The documents don’t mention movie and book rights.
Killen’s attorney, Jon A. Green of Mobile, Ala., asked the judge to throw out the land transfer and certify that Killen and his family own the property.
Stern told The Associated Press late Thursday that he did not forge the documents.
“It’s ridiculous when a person knows you’ve got everything you say you’ve got,” Stern said.
Stern was in prison for mail fraud and says he and Killen were cellmates from August 2010 to November 2011 at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Mississippi Department of Corrections spokeswoman Tara Booth has said Stern and Killen were in individual cells, but were close to one another.
Stern has been shopping around for book and movie deals about Killen, who is serving 60 years for manslaughter related to the 1964 deaths of three civil rights workers in what became known as the “Mississippi Burning” case.
Stern announced earlier this month that Killen “unexpectedly signed over the deed to his 40-acre property” and Stern gave it to a nonprofit organization called Racial Reconciliation, which Stern controls. Records show that Stern actually used power of attorney to transfer a half interest of the land because Killen and Killen’s brothers were partners in it, Killen’s lawyers said.
Green said Killen never signed the power of attorney over to Stern.
“Even an untrained eye can see that the signature on the document is ‘traced’ from an actual signature,” Green said in the lawsuit.
“By obtaining an alleged interest in the property through deception, defendants Stern and Racial Reconciliation have converted plaintiff property to their own interests, devices, and benefit.
“By placing a fake power of attorney of record in the chancery court, as well as a deed predicated on such an artifice, defendants Stern and Racial Reconciliation have placed an improper cloud on Plaintiff’s title, thus slandering said title,” the lawsuit said.
In a separate letter to Stern dated June 27 and obtained by the AP, Green said Killen and his family want back any legal documents or personal property taken from Killen.
“To the extent that you believe you possess any lawfully signed power of attorney or other documents transferring rights, Mr. Edgar Ray Killen … hereby revokes those documents.” Green said in the letter.
Stern said Killen’s handwriting was authenticated and the documents transferring Killen’s property to him were notarized. He said he had not been served with court papers in Killen’s lawsuit against him. “They can take it up with my lawyer,” Stern said.
On June 18, Stern filed a lawsuit in Hinds County claiming he had been slandered and defamed by Killen and Killen’s wife and lawyer over statements related to the land transfer. Stern said those statements hurt his reputation. He is seeking $6 million in damages.
Stern has told AP that he won’t pursue the lawsuit if he gets an apology.
Killen is in prison on charges related to the slayings of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney, civil rights workers who were registering black voters when they were abducted and killed by the Klan in 1964.
Killen, a former sawmill operator and one-time Baptist preacher, was convicted in 2005 of three counts of manslaughter. Killen has maintained his innocence.