Syracuse University

Letter to The Washington Post

To Editor, Washington Post

March 10, 2010

The Washington Post recently reported the FBI "is ready to close all but a handful" of 'cold cases' from decades ago (WP Feb. 28, 2010). Families who lost loved ones from suspected Klan violence are outraged by the token justice of such long-neglected, partial investigations.

The few recently successful murder prosecutions resulted from family members' unyielding efforts to attain justice for over 40 years. For many others, the lack of justice remains a gaping wound.

The Cold Case Justice Initiative at Syracuse University's College of Law (CCJI) works with many of these families. Federal law enforcement officials informed the CCJI, for example, that no records existed on the 1964 disappearance of Joseph Edwards from Vidalia, Louisiana. Yet in 2009 CCJI law students discovered dozens of FBI documents from 1967 relating to his murder.

Joseph Edwards' family and the American public deserve answers. How many other individuals murdered by acts of racial violence will be ignored in the rush to close files? There is still time for full investigations and prosecutions of some of these criminals.

Only Congress can provide the public scrutiny that is required of law enforcement for their failure to pursue prosecutions for over 40 years or to prematurely close investigations. Those who committed these heinous offenses should not escape accountability for the injustices the families of civil rights martyrs continue to suffer.

Paula C. Johnson and Janis L. McDonald
Co-Directors, Cold Case Justice Initiative
Syracuse University College of Law
Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York