President Barack Obama signed legislation earlier this month that allows the FBI and the Department of Justice to reopen unsolved civil rights cases. Initially titled Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes, the updated version of this bill now allows both agencies to bring to justice those who committed crimes prior to 1970.
Named after Emmett Till, the 14-year-old boy from Chicago who was taken from his bed in the middle of night, beat and shot by two white men for allegedly whistling at a white woman, the Justice Department is being encouraged to reach out to “activists, advocates and academics working on these issues.”
Other departments who will aid in resolving these cases include the Cold Case Justice Initiative at Syracuse University, Northeastern University School of Law’s Civil Rights and and Restorative Justice Project, The Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project at Emory University.
Introduced in 2005 by activist Alvin Sykes, Sykes vowed to Till’s mother Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley that he would reopen the case. Originally her son’s killers were acquitted by an all white jury for their crimes. The case was reopened in 2004 and closed three years later when a jury decided not to indict Carolyn Bryant, the woman who accused Emmett Till for whistling at her.
Several politicians believe the new bill will allow more cases to be solved. Those politicians include Sen. Claire McCaskill, Rep. John Lewis and Jim Sensenbrenner.