Partnership in Reviewing Cold Cases
Robert S. Mueller was joined by
civil rights leaders, including
John H. Jackson, chief policy officer
of the NAACP, at a press conference
Tuesday at the Department of Justice
in Washington, D.C.
on a program launched a year ago, the FBI
and the U.S. Department of Justice announced
new partnerships with the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People, the
Southern Poverty Law Center, and the National
Urban League to investigate aging unsolved
violent crimes from the Civil Rights era.
will do everything we can to close those cases
and to close this dark chapter in our nation's
history," FBI Director Robert S. Mueller
said Tuesday, appearing with representatives
from the three civil rights organizations
and with U.S. Attorney General Alberto S.
Gonzales. "Protecting the civil rights
of all Americans is one of the FBI's highest
missions, whether the violations occurred
four days ago or 40 years ago," Mueller
launched a program in February last year to
identify deadly hate crimes that occurred
before 1969 and that remained unsolved. Each
of our 56 field offices pored over these so-called
"cold cases" to see how many could
realistically be pursued.
identified roughly 100 cold cases that merit
further investigation, and have prioritized
the top dozen or so cases, Mueller said. Generally,
the FBI does not provide details about on-going
director noted several recent successful prosecutions
of old civil rights cases: the 2001 conviction
of Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry for
a 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama;
the 2003 conviction of Ernest Avants for the
1966 murder of Ben Chester White; and the
2005 conviction of Edgar Ray Killen for his
role in the
deaths of three civil rights workers in Mississippi
in 1964. He also mentioned the recent
of former Klansman James Ford Seale.
successes have restored our hope and renewed
our resolve," Mueller said.
The FBI will not be able to investigate all
of the unsolved civil rights cases; there
may be no federal jurisdiction in some, for
example. In others, evidence and witnesses
may be scarce or nonexistent.
these expanded lines of communication we hope
we can bring closure to some of these cases,"
said Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.
"If we are to succeed we must work as
a team, and the help of our partners will
be crucial as we continue to search for the
evidence to help us close these cases. Their
dedication to this cause has been tireless,
and we are proud to work with them on this."
the partnership, the civil rights organizations
will continue to feed us information about
cases they feel merit another lookor
that we may have overlooked in the past.
Witnesses who were once terrified to testify
or report a crime are now willing to step
forward and help. We can also use forensic
analysis and technology that didn't exist
40 years ago to solve cases that once looked
cannot turn back the clock. We cannot right
these wrongs. But we can try to bring a measure
of justice to those who remain," Mueller
Civil Rights section
of Justice Civil Rights Division