No, my lawyers didn't tell me that. My lawyers told the -- jumped up and told the court that. Read the transcript.
So your lawyers said you shot a man in the head, Ben Chester White, who was already dead?
Is that true?
No, it's true he said it. But it ain't true that I done that.
(VO) It was a racially mixed jury that acquitted Avants. And while two jurors told us they felt he did murder Ben Chester White, they couldn't convict Avants on the evidence produced at his trial.
JAY LEHMAN, JUROR
There must have been some more evidence that wasn't presented. There must have been.
WILLIAM BELL, JUROR
The district attorney, he did a poor job.
(VO) Whether or not the DA botched the case may never be known because the Avants transcript remains missing. But his acquittal is amazing. If only for the evidence that he confessed to Special Agent Alan Kornblum.
I was shocked. I thought with that confession he would have been convicted.
(VO) But now, time may be running out for this suspected murderer.
(OC) 20/20 has made a discovery that could give new life to the case against Ernest Avants. We returned here to the scene of the crime and discovered a simple fact that's been overlooked for 33 years. The murder of Ben Chester White occurred on federal land, inside the boundaries of the Homochitto National Forest, making the crime a federal offense for which Ernest Avants could still indicted after all these years.
That's of crucial significance.
(VO) Professor Ron Rychlak is associate dean at the University of Mississippi Law School.
(OC) This actually means he could be charged again, tried again and potentially found guilty.
Charged, tried and found guilty.
(VO) Last fall in response to our original broadcast, the FBI opened a new investigation. And last week, armed FBI agents entered a trailer home in Bogue Chitto, Mississippi.
They arrested 69-year-old Ernest Henry Avants for the murder of Ben Chester White, 34 years ago.
Mr. Avants? Mr. Avants?
Get her out of here or I'm going to blow her brains out. Get out! Leave him alone. Ain't you got any Christian in you?
GROUP OF PEOPLE
(In unison) No.
BRAD PIGOTT, US ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
The federal grand jury returned a one count murder indictment against Mr. Avants this afternoon. I, for one, want to express, on behalf of our office, the gratitude to the diligence of the 20/20 program of ABC News.
US Attorney Brad Pigott says it's the first known federal prosecution of a civil rights murder case.
It's our -- it's our professional judgment that we have enough admissible evidence to justify today's grand jury indictment of Mr. Avants and to try him for murder.
(VO) Federal prosecutors may rely on records uncovered by 20/20. For example, a motive, we found, in the lost confession of James Lloyd Jones.
(Playing James Lloyd Jones) Fuller told me he had orders from higher up that the man had to go. The deal was that they thought maybe they might get old Martin Luther King.
It's chilling to read really, and they were trying to use this murder perhaps to lure Dr. Martin Luther King to that area and maybe make an attempt on his life.