A preacher accused in the 1964 murders of three U.S. civil rights workers has gone on trial in the southern state of Mississippi.

Edgar Ray Killen
Prosecutors say Edgar Ray Killen instigated the slaying of three young men on a road outside the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi. The three, who were chased down, killed and buried, were in the area to help African Americans register to vote.

In his opening statement Wednesday, Mr. Killen's attorney admitted that his client was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, a network of white supremacists who fought desegregation, usually through violence and intimidation. The attorney said that Mr. Killen recruited people to beat the three civil rights workers but did not kill them.

Mr. Killen has maintained his innocence.

He was tried in 1967 on federal charges of violating the victims' civil rights, but an all white jury deadlocked one vote shy of conviction.

Some information for this report provided by AP.