Dozens of Civil Rights Era cases remain unsolved

Posted by Samuel King - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Jimmie Lee Jackson's case was one of 109 unsolved civil rights era cases being reviewed by the Justice Department.  But observers say a resolution in Jackson's case may be the exception and not the rule.

Former State Trooper Bonard Fowler will serve a total of six months in prison after his guilty plea to the manslaughter charge in the case.

Perry County D.A. Michael Jackson said time was a factor in his decision to accept the plea and the sentence.

"He's almost 80, so if this case had been delayed some more, there was a chance he would have died before justice had been done," Jackson said.

And while Jimmie Lee Jackson's case has now reached a resolution, Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen says dozens of other cases from the civil rights era remain unsolved.  Some of those names are like Jackson's - etched in the granite of the Civil Rights Memorial.

"In so many of these cases the defendants are dead, and in some of the other cases, witnesses are dead so it's a combination of things, evidence is lost," Cohen said.

The Justice Department must issue a report to Congress each year on its progress in solving those cases.

"It's really important that government, state government and federal government give all of these cases a hard look.  On the other hand, I don't think we should have any illusions," Cohen said.  "After all of this time, it was going to be tough to prosecute most of these cases.  So a measure of justice in some is going to have to serve as basically serve as a symbol of justice in many of the others."

The Justice Department now lists a few cases from our area - Bessie McDowell in Andalusia, James Motley in Elmore County and Hilliard Brooks in Montgomery -  as closed.  But many others remain open.  The State Attorney General's office also says there are a number of cold cases from the era, but they are not classified as civil rights cases.

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