The film was very controversial when it was released. Though fictional, the movie was clearly based on an actual case. Many people felt that too many facts from the real-life case were distorted or left out.
Interior shots in the Sheriff's Office, courtroom, and stairs from the courtroom were filmed in the old Carroll County courthouse in Vaiden, Miss. Built in 1905, the building was in such disrepair that crew and extras had to dodge falling bricks during filming. Though slated for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, the courthouse has been demolished.
During filming of rednecks-vs-reporters scenes on a bridge over the Big Black River near Bovina, Mississippi, two extras were nearly killed by a train when they ventured from a holding area onto a tall concrete-arch railroad bridge. They narrowly escaped injury by huddling on a tiny pedestal on the bridge's edge.
A Klansman in a red car with tall fins and white roof throws a victim out the door in the town square. The car is a 1961 DeSoto, the very last edition of the historic make. In fall 1960, Chrysler made about 3000 DeSotos before they discontinued the line.