FBI Closing Most Civil-Rights Killing Cases Without Charges


Three years after the FBI began investigating more than 100 unsolved civil rights killings, the agency is ready to close all but a few, says the Washsington Post. Investigators say they have solved most of the cases, but few will result in indictments, given the passage of decades, the deaths of prime suspects, and challenges of gathering evidence. “There’s maybe five to seven cases where we don’t know who did it,” said FBI agent Cynthia Deitle. “Some we know; others we know but can’t prove. For every other case, we got it.”

In nearly one-fifth of the 108 cases, agents learned that the deaths had no connection to the racial unrest pulsing through the South at the height of the civil rights struggle. In one case, the victim had been killed by a relative, but the family blamed the Ku Klux Klan. Two black women registering voters died in a car accident. The project, which at its peak involved more than 40 agents, was the agency’s most focused campaign to find out what happened in the deaths. For some families, hopes of a legal reckoning have been dashed, but the investigation has produced a different kind of accounting. Deitle said the FBI effort is one of the last opportunities to investigate the dark alleys of the segregated past. “If we don’t correct history, then who’s going to go back through this? Who’s going to fix history to make it accurate?” she asked.

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