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Civil Rights Groups Pushing To Expand Emmett Till Act

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. –  The NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference have passed resolutions asking the federal government to expand the Emmett Till Act.  The two groups want more civil rights era murder cases reviewed and for the money authorized by the law to be spent.

The law, named for a black Chicago teenager killed after whistling at a white woman in Money, Mississippi, was signed nearly 6 years ago by then President George W. Bush with the promise of $135 million for police work to investigate unsolved civil rights murders.  But since it became law, only one person has been prosecuted under it – a former Alabama state trooper who pleaded guilty in 2010 to killing a black protester in 1965.  And all but 20 of the 126 deaths investigated under the Emmett Till Act have been closed by the Justice Department. Investigators said they’re faced with major problems: many of the cases are too old to prosecute; suspects and witnesses have died or don’t remember the facts. 

An unknown number of murders in Mississippi and across the south have not even been looked at because the law doesn’t cover any killings after 1969.  That leaves many families, like those of James Earl Green, disheartened. Green was shot to death in 1970 by police during a student demonstration at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi.  No one was ever prosecuted and the family never learned the name of the shooter.

Civil rights leaders said in their resolutions that these families still deserve justice. 

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