Flanked by officials from the NAACP and the Southern Poverty Law Center, FBI Director Robert Mueller last year announced a partnership between his agency and civil rights organizations to bring justice in long-ignored murders from the civil rights era. The Associated Press reports that not one case has been prosecuted under the FBI’s Cold Case Initiative, which actually began two years ago with no fanfare. Richard Cohen, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, says, “I’ve been disappointed that more cases have not been brought. I worried that too many people would get their hopes up. I don’t want to be part of a show.”
Some of the killings occurred up to 60 years ago. Evidence was sometimes destroyed to prevent further investigating. Some killers were convicted before the FBI’s new initiative was announced in large part to the relentless efforts of survivors, journalists and prosecutors, and to the declassification of secret documents from the segregationist Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. Mueller said 26 cases had been forwarded to the Justice Department for prosecutorial analyses; they’ve been there for more than a year. A bill in Congress that would have allocated $10 million annually to pursue cold civil rights cases–the Till Bill, named for Emmett Till, a murdered black teenager–passed the House overwhelmingly but failed in the Senate. It was blocked by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who argued the government should not give money to new programs until it figures out what to do about chaotic fuel prices.