Unsolved Crime Bill

Could Give America Closure

By: Athens Banner-Herald | 10/9/2008

Presented By

Bonnie M. Wells

Almost lost amid the more immediate issues of the day - the ongoing financial woes of this country and the rest of the world, and the upcoming presidential election, to name just two - was a bit of good news that came out of Washington earlier this week.

On Tuesday, President Bush signed into law the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act. The bill clears the way for allocating $10 million annually for 10 years to the federal Department of Justice to prosecute unsolved killings from the civil rights era.

For the record, one of the only two votes against the bill came from Georgia Republican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland. The other "no" vote came from Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul. The Senate passed the bill via unanimous consent late last month, meaning there is no record of individual votes.

The Till Bill is named for Emmett Till, an African-American teenager from Chicago who was beaten and killed after whistling at a white woman in Mississippi in August 1955. All all-white jury acquitted the two men charged in the case, both of whom later told Look magazine they had been involved in the killing.

The Till Bill could just as easily have been named for George and Mae Murray Dorsey or Roger and Dorothy Malcom, the two local couples who were fatally shot by a mob of white men at the Moore's Ford bridge on the Apalachee River at the Walton and Oconee County line in July 1946. No one ever has been prosecuted in connection with the Moore's Ford lynching.

In recent years, both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have displayed a renewed interest in the case, and it's certainly likely that passage of the Till Bill could further spur the probe into the decades-old slayings of the two local couples.

Obviously, in the current fiscal climate of this country, there will be those who wonder whether a $10 million outlay to a federal government department that already receives ample operating funds is a wise expenditure of taxpayer dollars. And in the current climate, the argument that $10 million is a minuscule portion of the overall federal budget will fall on any number of deaf ears. After all, $10 million is $10 million.

In that light, it's important to note that, according to an Associated Press story on the legislation, "The new funding ... must be appropriated in subsequent spending legislation. " So there is, if Congress decides to exercise it, some check on the $10 million outlay approved in the Till Bill.

That said, Congress should think long and hard about any decision having to do with the bill's funding.

It's true that the money may not produce any tangible results. In connection with the Moore's Ford lynching, there may or may not be anyone still alive to prosecute for the long-ago lynching. The story likely is much the same for many, if not most, of the crimes that would be the focus of the Till Bill funding. The legislation limits expenditures to civil rights killings committed before 1970.

But, even in the possible absence of any tangible results - specifically, prosecutions in any civil-rights- era murders - from the millions that could be spent in connection with the Till Bill, there are intangible benefits that must be considered.

In essence, the Till Bill is an attempt to address the self-evident truth that justice delayed is justice denied. In far too many of the civil-rights- era murders, justice was delayed and denied because there was no particular demand for justice from the communities in which those murders occurred.

That sad chapter of American history is consigned to the past, but that doesn't absolve this country of the responsibility to seek out justice wherever it might still be found. That's why the Till Bill is important, and that's why funding it should be a priority.


Commentary By BMW

"The Till Bill is an attempt to address the self-evident truth that justice delayed is justice denied."

How very true - and how sad that funding is just now being appropriated to work on crimes in which most {if not all} of the perpetrators are probably already dead -- and those who aren't are probably professors in one of the many liberal colleges strung across our nation!

And in the meantime, our nation piles ever higher with 'new' missing person and unsolved murdered person cases, while President Bush, nor anyone else in Washington seem to notice or care.

I guess we should remember that Washington DC is considered the 'Murder Capitol' of our nation too! Says a lot, now doesn't it folks?

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Bonnie M. Wells

2008 // BMW