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Ruling In 1964 Crime Could Undermine Civil Rights-Era Probes

Can time run out on justice? Federal authorities says they are investigating 22 civil rights-era crimes, but a court ruling invoking the statute of limitations could undermine their efforts.

By HOLBROOK MOHR
Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. – Federal prosecutors have identified 22 current investigations into civil rights-era crimes that could be impacted by a federal appeals court’s decision to overturn a conviction in a 1964 kidnapping case.
The Justice Department wants the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the ruling that acquitted a reputed Klansman in the abductions of two black teenagers found slain. A three-judge panel said the statute of limitations had passed from the time the crime was committed in 1964 and James Ford Seale’s conviction in 2007.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said Tuesday in a letter to the court that the FBI is investigating 22 cases from that era that could result in kidnapping charges. The crimes are being investigated in the judicial jurisdiction that includes Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. The letter, a response to a question by the appeals court, stated that seven of the cases are “particularly promising.”
Like the Seale case, all 22 of the investigations focus on events that occurred before 1972, the letter said. A Mississippi law professor said the ruling could have a chilling effect on the cases.
“I think that the implication is that there are meritous kidnapping cases from the civil rights era that will go unprosecuted if this ruling stands,” said Mississippi College School of Law Professor Matt Steffey. “I think it’s likely that this would eliminate a whole category of potential prosecutions.”
For Full Story

Read Justice Department Petition For Reconsideration


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