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February 27, 2007
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FBI may revisit decades-old cold cases

The Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. — Jimmie Lee Griffin was run over twice in a hit-and-run accident in 1965 and the driver was never caught.

His death is among 74 cold cases in 11 states that the Southern Poverty Law Center says are suspected of being racially motivated in the 1950s and '60s.

The center, which reports on hate crimes, has forwarded the list of cases to the FBI in the hopes that it may be helpful in future investigations. The Justice Department was to hold a news conference Tuesday to talk about a new database of old civil rights era cases that now could be investigated.

The Montgomery, Ala.-based center's researchers say many of the people on its list died at the hands of law enforcement officers. If whites were charged, they were often exonerated by sympathetic juries, researchers said.

"In each case there was significant evidence that the death may have been a racial murder," said Mark Potok, director of the center's Intelligence Project.

Researchers started the list in the late 1980s when the group was putting together a civil rights memorial.

"We did a lot of research on these names and we're very hopeful that this information will be helpful to the FBI and particularly that it will be helpful to the families of those who were murdered," Potok said.

Thirty-two of the deaths happened in Mississippi. The others were in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky and New York.

Last month, FBI Director Robert Mueller said the bureau was aggressively seeking to solve cold civil rights cases, vowing to "pursue justice to the end, and we will, no matter how long it takes, until every living suspect is called to answer for their crimes."

For most cases on the center's list, the statute of limitations under federal civil rights laws will have run out, U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton has said. In others, charges could not be brought because the accused already have faced charges and been cleared by a jury.

Still, researchers at the law center believe each is worth investigation.






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