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Court Won’t Hear Appeal Over Race Killing

March 1, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal Monday in the case of a black maid shot to death on a Florida roadside 40 years ago.

Johnnie Mae Chappell’s family wanted to sue four white men allegedly involved in the drive-by killing near Jacksonville, Fla., along with the former and current sheriffs of Duval County. Several of Chappell’s children filed the suit in 2000, alleging that little was done to investigate their mother’s killing, and that the county had tried to sweep the matter under the rug.

The sheriff’s office conspired with the four men to misplace and tamper with evidence, the family alleged in a civil rights complaint. The four were indicted several months after the shooting in 1964, but only one went to trial. He was convicted of manslaughter.

Years later, a detective who had worked on the case told the adult Chappell children about the alleged interference by sheriff’s department higher-ups.

Lower courts dismissed the family’s suit after finding the Chappell children could not show their civil rights were violated at the time of the killing.

The case is Chappell v. Rich, 03-919.

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