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September 26, 2018

Bipartisan Jones-Cruz Bill to Release Civil Rights Cold Case Records Earns Committee Approval

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today announced that their bipartisan Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act has passed through the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Senator Jones introduced the legislation in July to require the review, declassification, and release of government records related to unsolved criminal civil rights cases. Despite being nearly 50 years old, some of these documents remain classified unnecessarily.

“While the communities and families impacted by these crimes might not get justice, I hope they can get some sense of closure by getting access to these records,” said Senator Jones. “We need to take steps to unlock these documents while there’s still time for people to have that healing process and understand all the facts that are out there. As a former prosecutor who secured convictions in a decades-old cold case, I know that it’s never too late to seek justice. It’s time now that we give every grieving family the same opportunity.”

“The civil rights movement triumphed by securing for millions of people their rightful share in the American Dream,” Senator Cruz said. “Unfortunately, many violent crimes committed against black families struggling for equality during this time were never solved. Our bill attempts to address this by disclosing case records so that private detectives, historians, victims, and victims’ families may access these files, pursue leads, and document these tragic events. I am proud to work with my colleagues in this bipartisan effort, and am hopeful that additional sunlight and public interest will bring revelation, justice, and closure where it has long been lacking.”

Since its introduction, the legislation has earned bipartisan support and has brought renewed national attention to the issue of civil rights cold cases. Among the most well-known of these cases is that of Emmett Till, who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 at the age of fourteen. Till’s case was re-opened by the Department of Justice earlier this year after it had received new information. However, more than 100 other cold cases remain closed without any resolution.

 

Background

The Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2018 will:

  • Require the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to establish a collection of cold case records about unsolved criminal civil rights cases that government offices must publicly disclose in the collection.
  • Establish a Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board to facilitate the review, transmission to NARA, and disclosure of government records related to such cases.
  • Read a detailed summary of the legislation here.

 

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