A jury found former Tchula mayor Eddie Carthan not guilty yesterday of hiring two men to kill a political rival during a power struggle in the predominantly black Mississippi Delta town.
"This is a victory for all people who want to achieve equal treatment under the law," Carthan, who is black, told more than 100 supporters on the Holmes County Courthouse steps.
"The bell has struck for liberty and justice and peace," said Carthan, 33, who was accused of hiring two gunmen to kill Tchula Alderman Roosevelt Granderson, also black.
Carthan claimed he was a victim of racism, framed by a "white power structure" because he would not cooperate during his term as mayor of the town of 1,900 people in a farming region of cotton and soybeans.
The all-black circuit court jury that heard the 2 1/2-week trial returned its verdict after deliberating 45 minutes.
Granderson, a popular basketball coach at Tchula's high school, was slain June 28, 1981, at a convenience store where he worked part time. Vincent Earl Bolden and David Earl Hester of East St. Louis, Ill., both black, testified that the former mayor promised them $10,000 each to stage a robbery and kill Granderson and other persons who were not identified.
Carthan was led away to the Holmes County Jail, where he is serving a three-year sentence on his 1981 conviction on a charge of assaulting a white Tchula policeman. The state Supreme Court has rejected his appeal in that case, but Carthan hopes to be freed on bond while he appeals to a federal court.