At its heart, it’s about solving cases — in other words, seeking justice regardless of how long it takes for investigators to connect the figurative dots. Cases solved, even if they take years, are better than cases left unsolved. Mysteries of murder and mayhem help no one.
Last Sunday, Star editor at large John Fleming examined the Department of Justice’s Cold Case Initiative that’s trying to crack a sizeable collection of unsolved civil rights-era murders. The department told Congress earlier this summer of 122 cases in its initiative’s files. Sixty-two of them remain open.
Granted, DOJ investigators have no easy task. As Fleming explained, any number of variables can be an obstruction between success and failure on civil rights cold cases, from destroyed evidence to the deaths of witnesses to the mere passage of time. Unfortunately, investigators sometimes have little choice but to close a cold case because too little evidence has survived the decades.
It’s tough enough solving heinous crimes in the first days after they occur; solving them four decades later often can seem an impossible task.
Take note that 17 cases on the DOJ initiative’s list are from Alabama; 11 of them remain open. It would be a salve for this state’s soul if those cases are solved, if more of Alabama’s civil-rights murders are given needed judicial closure.
The killings of men and women because of the color of their skin scarred this nation for too long. Some of those scars remain today, particularly in states such as Alabama, where racial violence once lived among us. Thank goodness that this state, and this nation, has moved to a better place. But unfinished work remains.
The Department of Justice’s Cold Case Initiative is performing a needed duty in America. It says something about this nation that we are still seeking justice for those who died because of the color of their skin or the racial violence of days past.
It says we’re doing the right thing. We’re seeking justice, albeit decades later.