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42 years later, a jury indicts

Published May 10, 2007


MARION, Ala. - A grand jury returned a sealed indictment Wednesday in the shooting death of a black man by a state trooper 42 years ago, a killing that set in motion the civil rights protests in Selma and led to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

District Attorney Michael Jackson said the charge and the identity of the person indicted would not be made public until the indictment is served. But a lawyer for former Trooper James Bonard Fowler said he had been informed that the retired lawman had been charged.

It took the grand jury only two hours to return the indictment in the slaying of 26-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was shot by Fowler during a 1965 civil rights protest.

Fowler, now 73, said he fired in self-defense after Jackson grabbed his gun from its holster.

Some of those who were in Marion on the night of the shooting are dead, as are two FBI agents who originally investigated Jackson's death. News reporters were also beaten and cameras destroyed during the melee, with no pictures left of what happened.

The retired trooper was not asked to testify. All of the witnesses who appeared before the panel Wednesday are black, and none witnessed the shooting. But Vera Jenkins Booker, the night supervising nurse at the hospital where Jackson died, said the patient told her what happened.

"He said, 'I was trying to help my grandfather and my mother, and the state trooper shot me.' He didn't give any name, " Booker told reporters.

Fast Facts:

From Marion to civil rights

- About 500 people were protesting the jailing of a civil rights worker on Feb. 18, 1965, in Marion, Ala.

- Troopers contended the crowd refused orders to disperse. Soon law officers began swinging billy clubs, with marchers fleeing.

- Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot while trying to protect his mother and 82-year-old grandfather from troopers' clubs. He died two days later.

- In reaction to the killing, black civil rights demonstrators set out on March 7, 1965, on a march from Selma to Montgomery. They were routed by club-swinging officers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge at Selma, an attack known as "Bloody Sunday."

- Selma became the center of the civil rights movement, and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led a weeklong Selma-to-Montgomery march later in the month.

- Those events prompted Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act, which ended segregationist practices that prevented blacks from voting.

[Last modified May 10, 2007, 01:56:12]

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