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Ex-Klansman Stricken at His Trial; Mistrial Ordered

February 05, 1988|Associated Press

MOBILE, Ala. — Former Ku Klux Klansman Benny Jack Hays collapsed with chest pains during his murder trial today when a former Klan associate described the slaying of a black teen-ager, and the judge declared a mistrial.

The 72-year-old defendant, who relatives said has a history of heart trouble, became ill 15 minutes after the prosecution's key witness, James (Tiger) Knowles, began his second day on the witness stand.

Paramedics treated Hays in the courtroom before taking him to the emergency room at the University of South Alabama. Hays never lost consciousness during the emergency treatment that interrupted the fifth day of the trial for him and co-defendant Frank Cox, his son-in-law.

Hays' attorney said he was willing to proceed with the trial, but Circuit Court Judge Michael Zoghby said he had no choice but to grant a prosecution motion for a mistrial.

Hays and Cox, 32, were accused of murder in what prosecutors say was a random revenge killing of Michael Donald, 19, found fatally beaten and hanging from a tree limb.

On Thursday, Knowles, who was 17 at the time of the killing, described how he and Hays' son, Henry Francis Hays, abducted Donald at random on March 21, 1981, beat him severely, hanged him and slit his throat.

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