Storeowners on the square in downtown Philadelphia have peeked out their doors more often than usual the last week. No unruly crowds have gathered, though, and traffic has snaked its way through the area as usual, despite some street closings.

Inside the square, however, behind the orange barricades and armed lawmen, what some have called the most important trial in Mississippi history has unfolded.

Many have called the trial of Edgar Ray Killen monumental, a watershed in Mississippi civil rights history, the trial of the century. Others have wished for the quiet of everyday life in Neshoba County and Mississippi, saying that the trial was opening old wounds that had long since healed over.

The trial, which ended Tuesday with Killen’s felony manslaughter conviction, did stoke old wounds for some, namely the family members of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

The three young men were beaten and shot by a gang of Ku Klux Klansmen, then buried in a dam 41 years ago to the day. They were registering blacks to vote.

Killen, the first to face state murder charges in the case, could be sentenced to up to 20 years on each of the three counts. He did not testify at his short trial, which began last Wednesday, and he was breathing with the aid of an oxygen tube, looking straight ahead, as he listened to the reading of the verdict and the confirmatory poll of the jurors by the judge.

Killen, who was tried by the State of Mississippi on three counts of murder, was free on bail and was using a wheelchair because of arthritis that worsened after he broke his legs in a tree-cutting accident in March

One of those he was responsible for murdering was Michael Schwerner.

Testimony began Wednesday with his widow, Rita Schwerner-Bender, who traveled to Meridian with him, in 1964.

Bender told of how she and Schwerner, both in their early 20s, had moved to Meridian to help blacks register to vote.

Just after her testimony, Killen was taken by ambulance to the hospital, ending the day’s testimony and creating questions about how long the trial might be stalled. It was only high blood pressure, a doctor later said. Killen was back in the courtroom the next morning.

Friday marked the testimony of Mike Winstead, a new face, and Mike Hatcher, one of the “heroes of the trial,” as Attorney General Jim Hood called him. Winstead said he had heard Killen boasting about his involvement in the murders 38 years earlier.

“A statement like that would kind of stick out in a kid’s mind, don’t you think?” he asked defense attorney Mitch Moran.

Hatcher, a former Klansman and Meridian police officer, told jurors that Killen had confided in him details about the murders the day after they occurred. He said he remembered Killen’s brown cowboy boots showing underneath a white robe and hood at one initiation meeting.

Prosecutors read testimony from the 1967 federal trial that further linked Killen with the murders in between live witnesses.

Carolyn Goodman, 89, testified Friday, telling jurors that some details were hazy, but that some, such as a postcard her son, Andy, had sent her the day before he was murdered, was crystal clear.

At the end of the day, the prosecution had used most of its ammunition. It called one more witness Saturday, James Chaney’s mother. Fannie Lee Chaney told of the last time she saw her son, and threats to “blow her to bits” she received during the subsequent investigation of his murder.

Later that morning Moran and fellow defense attorney James McIntyre began calling their witnesses, mostly friends and family of Killen who testified as to his whereabouts on the day of the murders. Oscar Kenneth Killen and Dorothy Dearing, Killen’s brother and sister, said they had spent the day with their brother at a family gathering, and had later seen him at a funeral in Philadelphia.

Monday the defense called Hatcher to the stand, and questioned him about the truth of his 1967 testimony. Hatcher added Monday that he had known Killen was just under Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers in the Klan hierarchy.

The defense rested its case Monday morning, and by that afternoon all four attorneys trying the case were giving closing arguments. Hood and Duncan stressed Killen’s leadership role in the murders, pointing to evidence such as testimony that Killen had told his co-conspirators to buy rubber gloves before the murders.

The defense, in its closing statements, told jurors that Killen was in the Klan but was not involved with the murders. James McIntyre faulted the state of Mississippi for opening old wounds and causing its citizens to look at each other “cross-eyed” once again.

The day ended with suspense - after more than two hours of deliberation, jurors announced they were unable to reach a verdict. They were split 6-6, but no one knew whether they were choosing between guilt and acquittal or between murder and manslaughter.

The jury, which began deliberating Monday afternoon, reported just before breaking for the night that they were spilt 6 to 6 on the case against Killen, the ailing, 80-year-old sawmill operator who was charged with masterminding the 1964 slayings. The jurors resumed their deliberations Tuesday morning, after spending the night sequestered at a hotel on the order of the judge, Marcus D. Gordon.

About 11 o’clock Tuesday morning, however, they had made up their minds: guilty on three counts of manslaughter.

Killen, swatting at reporters from his wheelchair, was taken into custody soon afterwards.

Among the vast range of emotions and opinions that flooded Philadelphia streets as soon as the verdict was announced, two sentiments became fairly consistent from person to person: “It’s good to be finished” and “It should have been settled earlier.”

Many Philadelphians feel that the case had lingered in the thoughts of the community for far too long. Only a just outcome, though, would be enough to put the matter to rest, and most citizens interviewed feel justice was served.

“We can’t live in the past,” Philadelphia native Tjwanna Pace said. “But sometimes you have to correct the mistakes that were done in the past in order to move on to the future.”

There still remain those who feel that the conviction of an 80-year-old man for a 41-year-old crime should never have been pursued. They typically see the trial as a step backward to a more controversial time.

“All this is going to do is bring out more hatred,” said Philadelphia resident Phil Beckius, a Chicago native. “It should have been cleared up a long time ago. All it’s going to do is bring up stuff that should be left buried.”

And while some can feel sorry for Killen and his family, “better late than never” seems to be the general consensus. Now that a verdict has been established, local residents can feel free again—to discuss or ignore the matter.

“Really, all of Philadelphia was punished years ago when it happened by having to go through this fear and horror of all of it,” said Lea Anne Fulton, another Philadelphia native. “So I just hope that now it can just all be over.”

As for the impact on Mississippi’s image to the rest of the nation, many of those interviewed agree that the state and community’s progress — whether recognized or not — is more important.

Of the 18 men tried later on federal civil rights charges, seven were convicted by the all-white jury. Killen was freed when the jury deadlocked 11 to 1 in favor of conviction, after a holdout juror said she could not convict a preacher.

Eight of the defendants are still alive. The men who were convicted were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 3 years to 10 years, although none served more than 6 years. The case gained renewed international attention when it was dramatized in the 1988 movie “Mississippi Burning.”

The New York Times contributed to this report.