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Justice Department Reopens Civil Rights Cases

The Justice Department has decided to prosecute about a dozen civil rights cases that are decades old. A guest explains why.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    For many of the families of the beaten victims, the lynched and murdered during the 1960s civil rights movement, it's been justice delayed and denied, in some cases for 50 years.

    State and federal law enforcement officials have successfully prosecuted several decades-old civil rights cases in recent years. In January, former Ku Klux Klan member James Seale was indicted for the kidnappings and murders of Charles Moore and Henry Dee in Meadville, Mississippi, in 1964.

    But there are still hundreds of crimes for which no one was ever prosecuted. Now the Justice Department has announced a new initiative to reopen investigations into those so-called cold cases.

    At a press conference last month in Washington, FBI Director Robert Mueller explained why, after so much time, it was still important to search for answers.

  • ROBERT MUELLER, FBI Director:

    In too many instances, the truth has been hidden for too long. Many individuals have, quite literally, gotten away with murder.

    We cannot turn back the clock. We cannot right these wrongs. But we can try to bring a measure of justice to those who remain.

    We know that some memories may fade, some evidence may be lost, and some witnesses may pass away. We know that, no matter how much work we devote to an investigation, we may not always get the result that we're hoping for. But in other cases, we will.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The unprosecuted cases include those of Lamar Smith, who was shot dead on the lawn of a Brookhaven, Miss., courthouse in 1955. Despite several eyewitness accounts of the shooting, no one was ever arrested.

    William Lewis Moore was shot and killed in Attalla, Ala., in 1963, during a one-man march against segregation. Ballistics tests proved the identity of the gun owner, but no one was indicted.

    And O'Neal Moore, a deputy sheriff in Bogalusa, La., was gunned down in his patrol car in 1965. Authorities arrested one suspect but released him two weeks later.

    It's unclear which cases will be prosecuted first, but the Justice Department says several investigations are already under way.

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