By Chelsea Brasted | LSU Student
A dozen unsolved civil rights-era murder cases committed in Louisiana and southern Mississippi remain open investigations with the FBI, nearly all more than 40 years old, according to a Department of Justice report recently submitted to Congress.
The U.S. Attorney General's office submitted for annual review in August its status list of the 111 cases representing 124 victims, all African-American, as prescribed under the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007.
Louisiana and southern Mississippi lay claim to at least two-dozen of these murder victims that occurred mostly in the 1960s. Half of these cases have gone cold and moved to inactive status for various reasons, as detailed in the report.
Various legal roadblocks exist, including prosecutors' inability to retroactively enforce certain laws, such as a federal law preventing racially motivated homicide, according to the report. The five-year statute of limitations and the Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy also create legal hurdles and roadblocks for the FBI in investigating these cases.
Inherent problems with investigating cold cases, such as deaths of subjects and witnesses, destroyed evidence, or even "members of local law enforcement agencies [who] were either themselves members of the Ku Klux Klan or sympathized with Klan viewpoints" adds to the problem, says the Justice Department.
The report notes that prosecutors have closed 79 cases thus far, including one successful federal prosecution. In 67 of those closures — including a dozen from Louisiana and southern Mississippi — all identified subjects were dead or there was insufficient evidence of a potential violation of a civil rights law.
Because of the running clock aspect of these cases, the FBI is reaching out to civil rights organizations and the citizenry in general to urge reporting of any information about these crimes to the New Orleans and Jackson field offices of the FBI.
The following unsolved murder cases, almost all involving the Ku Klux Klan and Klan sympathizers in local law enforcement agencies, are the 12 remaining on the FBI's active investigation list:
The following 12 murder cases that occurred in Louisiana or southern Mississippi, and have been closed by the FBI, a majority since the last report was issued: