The Justice Department is partnering with civil rights groups to pursue the killers of black men and women slain by white vigilantes in the South decades ago, the Washington Post reports. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller said the government’s interest in 40 unsolved murders was renewed after successful prosecutions of civil-rights-era murder suspects in recent years. Gonzales said that witnesses who had been silent are prepared to come forward and that technological advances can help authorities link suspects to crimes. Agents will open investigations into 12 cases, which were not identified.
A Mississippi grand jury declined to indict Carolyn Bryant, the wife of one of two men who admitted to killing teenager Emmett Till in 1955 after an all-white jury acquitted them. “Many individuals have quite literally gotten away with murder,” Mueller said. But the government has a message to killers who remain alive, he said: “You’ve not gotten away with anything. We’re still on your trail.” The Southern Poverty Law Center listed several cases that seem worthy of pursuing.