Still-living remnants of the gang that murdered three civil rights workers here fall into two categories, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said – the still-proud “nod and wink” kind, and those who have convinced themselves that they didn’t have anything to do with the murders.

Edgar Ray Killen, Hood said, belongs to the former group. “They want to brag about it but they’re cowards and they don’t want to take the medicine,” he said.

Killen was convicted of manslaughter in the deaths of three young men who were helping blacks register to vote four decades ago.

Hood and Neshoba County District Attorney Mark Duncan discussed the challenge of trying the 41-year-old case in a question and answer session about an hour after Killen was convicted on three counts of felony manslaughter Tuesday.

The two said that they knew much more about the case, including who actually killed the three, than they were allowed to tell jurors in court.

They faced several problems, they said. For one, some witnesses, including several of those who were convicted in a 1967 federal civil rights violation trial, refused to testify or sign written statements. Others, Hood said, were dead. Three of the most significant witnesses in the case against Killen died, he said.

Duncan said Wayne Roberts and James Jordan, both of Meridian, were actually responsible for shooting the young men, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. Roberts shot Goodman and Schwerner, he said, and Jordan shot Chaney, they said.

Another witness committed suicide after telling investigators that Killen had been present when Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers gave the orders to “eliminate” or murder Schwerner, whom they had nicknamed “Goatee.”

They said one thing they didn’t know about the case was whether Killen had been present at the shootings or the subsequent disposal of the bodies. “There’s some questions that will go to the grave unanswered,” Hood said.

Hood said the state plans to make public all evidence collected in the investigation, even pieces that weren’t admissible in Killen’s trial.

Hood and Duncan were upbeat after the conviction. “First, I want to say to the families of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman that while we can’t undo what was done 41 years ago, at least now the state of Mississippi has done what it can do,” Duncan said.

Duncan said that although they pushed for a murder conviction in the case, they were satisfied with a manslaughter conviction. “I do not see it as a failure,” he said. “It was not a perfect verdict, but you have to understand, it was not a perfect case.”

Dozens of national and international news organizations called Neshoba County home throughout the trial.

Duncan and Hood called it the most important case in Mississippi history, as did Circuit Court Judge, Marcus D. Gordon in the courtroom before the jury was brought in the verdict was read.

But Hood said the political and social ramifications of the trial didn’t concern him in his investigation. “I’m just a prosecutor,” he said. “I don’t pretend to be a sociologist.

“Mark and I didn’t bring this to a grand jury to solve any social problems,” he said. “I don’t know what to say other than we were just doing our jobs.”

Duncan, a Philadelphia native, said the trial spoke volumes about the character of Neshoba County residents. “Finally I want to say something about the people of Neshoba County,” he said. “Today, like I said before, I know the character of the people of this county.

“Neshoba Countians will no longer be “painted and described around the world by a hollywood movie.”