The Mississippi Supreme Court has affirmed the conviction of Edgar Ray Killen on manslaughter charges in the 1964 slayings of three young men who were registering blacks to vote here.

In affirming the conviction, the court said there was no statute of limitations on the crime of manslaughter in Mississippi and noted the delay was not prejudicial to Killen.

In writing for the court, Justice Jess H. Dickinson said the record reflects that Killen's instruction to the Klan members who were assisting in grabbing the three civil rights workers was to "pick them up and tear their butts up."

While jurors and jury duty has materially changed since the 60s when it was likely that Killen would have drawn an all-white jury, the justices said the delay was not prejudicial to Killen.

The court cited 14 witnesses called by the prosecution, six of which testified in person at the 2005 and the testimony of six others were taken from the transcript of Killen's federal trial.

The reputed Ku Klux Klan leader was convicted of three counts of manslaughter on June 21, 2005, for his role in the slaying of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

He was sentenced to serve 20 years in the state penitentiary on each count to run consecutively for a total of 60 years.

In his appeal, Killen argued that the manslaughter instruction to the jury should not have been given because there was no evidence of a kidnapping and no proof that he participated in the killing. He also argued the statute of limitations had run out on kidnapping.

In his appeal, Killen said he was not granted due process of law because his trial came 41 years after the murders.