New law empowers Justice of Department to re-open cold civil rights murder cases
The NAACP commends President George Bush and members of the U.S. Congress for passage of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act. The measure passed enthusiastically in both houses of Congress and was signed into law last night by President George Bush.
The NAACP supported legislation puts additional federal resources and authority into solving many of the heinous crimes that occurred in the early decades of the civil rights struggle that remain unsolved, aiming to bring perpetrators to justice.
"By investing new resources into these decades-old crimes we may finally be able to bring resolution to these cases and allow some closure for the victims' loved ones, as well as our nation as a whole," said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.
This bill creates two new offices within the U.S. Department of Justice whose sole purpose is to investigate such crimes. The Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Investigative Office will be managed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The office, led by a chief investigator, who in coordination with state and local law enforcement officials, will aggressively investigate pre-1970 cases that resulted in a homicide or remain unsolved. The Unsolved Crimes Section will be a new office within the Civil Rights Division of the department of justice. It will focus specifically on prosecuting these cases. If a crime other than murder is discovered during the course of an inquiry, it will be referred to the appropriate law enforcement officials."
The Unsolved Crimes Section will report its findings to Congress annually on Sept. 30, the end of each federal fiscal year.
"Time is of the essence," said NAACP Interim General Counsel Angela Ciccolo. "Justice has been significantly delayed for each of these victims and their families. The NAACP also hopes this important initiative will reinforce the commitment of law enforcement to aggressively prosecute and investigate more recent race-based murders and other acts of intimidation."
The bill authorizes $11.5 million in annual appropriations: $5 million for the Unsolved Crimes Section, $5 million for the Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Investigative Office and $1.5 million for Community Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice to work with local communities in identifying these cases.
"Justice delayed is no longer justice denied," said NAACP Washington Bureau Director Hilary O. Shelton. "These new resources will give the Justice Department the tools needed to redeem itself."
The law is named in remembrance of Emmett Till, who was abducted and brutally murdered at the age of 14 in Money, Miss. in 1955. After being acquitted by an all-white jury, local residents J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant would confess to Till's murder in a 1956 magazine article.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.