James Ford Seale, 71, has pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping and conspiracy in connection with the 1964 abduction and slaying of 19-year-olds Charles Moore and Henry Dee. His federal trial is set to begin today in Jackson, Miss.
“In my heart, I don’t think he did it,” Seale Jr. said in a recent telephone interview. “But that’s what a trial is for, to get the facts out, to make a decision one way or the other based on the facts.”
Seale Jr. says the press has been unfair in its coverage of his father.
“They are prosecuting him, calling him a killer, and it’s all hearsay,” he said.
While Seale Jr. spoke of unfair press coverage in general, he singled out the Jackson, Miss., Clarion-Ledger for its many stories on the case and particularly long-time investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell.
Mitchell’s reporting has helped lead to the prosecution of a number of civil-rights-era killings, including the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham.
Seale Jr., has misled reporters about his father in the past.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2002 — after The Clarion-Ledger uncovered documents that helped to reopen the case — Seale Jr. referred to his father in the past tense, saying, “He was a good man and a good father. ... Whatever happened in Mississippi, they ought to let laying dogs lie.”
In 2005, interviewed by the Associated Press, Seale Jr. said his father had died several months earlier. In fact, his father was still very much alive.
In his interview with The Star, Seale Jr. said he told the AP his father was dead so the wire service would leave him alone.
“That reporter kept harassing me, and I finally told him my father was dead just so he would leave me alone. I told him if he didn’t stop calling me, I was going to sue him for harassment.”
AP reporter Allen Breed said that although he left messages, he talked to Seale Jr. only twice, once when Seale told him his father was dead and once when Seale threatened to sue him.
“I remember offering him my condolences when he told me his father was dead,” said Breed.
After The Los Angeles Times and the Clarion-Ledger reported that James Ford Seale was dead, Canadian film maker David Ridgen and Thomas Moore, the brother of Charles Moore, found him in July, 2005, near the little Mississippi town of Roxie. They had been alerted by Ronnie Harper, the local prosecutor in Natchez, that Seale was alive. They were skeptical until they actually saw him.
Due in part to the persistence of Thomas Moore through the course of filming a documentary over the next 20 months, authorities stepped up their work in the case, and by January, 2007, had indicted James Ford Seale
Seale Jr. says he keeps in touch with his father, writes to him and phones him, but he hasn’t seen him since before he was jailed awaiting trial in 2006.
Asked if his father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan when the killings took place, Seale Jr. replied, “I was 4 years old at the time. You know as much about this as I do.”
“From what I remember, my father is a kind man,” said Seale Jr.