Grand jury to hear evidence in killing from Civil Rights era
by John Fleming
Editor at large
Apr 28, 2007 | 3909 views |  0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson will take new evidence in the Civil Rights era killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson to a grand jury next month, he announced during a Friday conference at Harvard University.

“We are about to do something on this case real soon,” Jackson told participants in a conference on “Solving the Crimes of the Civil Rights Era” at Harvard Law School. “We are going to present it to the grand jury on May 9. I feel like I finally have enough evidence now to present it to the grand jury.”

Jackson made the comment while describing the background of the case to conference participants.

Jimmie Lee Jackson was killed in a Marion restaurant Feb. 18, 1965, by State Trooper James Bonard Fowler of Geneva. State troopers had been dispatched to the area because a night march had been planned by local civil rights leaders. During a confrontation between troopers and marchers, some marchers sought refuge in the restaurant and were followed inside by troopers.

The shooting death of Jimmie Lee Jackson in the restaurant is widely considered to have been the catalyst for the Selma-to-Montgomery March, a pivotal event in the Civil Rights movement that helped bring about the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Fowler, in an interview with The Star in February 2005, admitted publicly for the first time to killing Jackson, but insisted he shot Jackson in self-defense. A number of historical accounts of the shooting say Jackson was shot while trying to protect his mother from being beaten by troopers.

In March, The Star located and interviewed Robert C. Andrews, a former state trooper and one of the last living witnesses to the killing. Andrews reiterated the account he gave of the shooting in 1965, and said no law-enforcement agency had ever spoken to him about the case.

Michael Jackson during his talk on Friday mentioned the work The Star had done as leading to his reopening of the case. The district attorney’s jurisdiction includes Marion.

Soon after the publication of The Star’s interview with Fowler, the leadership of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus called on state and federal authorities to investigate and prosecute Fowler for the shooting. Michael Jackson’s office and that of Attorney General Troy King announced they were reviewing the case.

Among others on Friday’s conference panel with Michael Jackson were Doug Jones, who prosecuted the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing case; Charles R. Nesson, a professor of law at Harvard Law School who served as an assistant to John Doar in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department during the 1960s Civil Rights movement; and Terry Lenzner, also an attorney for the Civil Rights Division under Doar during that era.

The conference at Harvard Law School is sponsored by Northeastern University and Harvard Law School.
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