The following letter appeared in the August 14, 2010 edition of The Washington Post. It was written in response to a recent editorial criticizing a lack of progress in investigating unsolved civil rights cases from the 1950s and 1960s.
It would be wrong to conclude that a lack of publicity equals a failure to investigate murder cases in the South in the 1950s and ‘60s that appeared to be racially motivated. For example, in one case, the FBI has completed more than 70 interviews, deployed an undercover agent, and used our laboratory to evaluate evidence.
Prosecuting decades-old crimes involves significant challenges. Many of the crimes represent a violation of state, not federal, law. Accordingly, six cases have been referred to state authorities. And prosecution is not the sole measure of success.
In more than 50 of these cases, the identified suspect is dead. To date, 36 letters were hand-delivered by FBI agents to the victim's next of kin detailing the investigation's findings. This is a significant accomplishment that we hope provides a measure of closure to these families.
Michael P. Kortan
Assistant Director, Office of Public Affairs