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December 17, 2018

Bipartisan Jones-Cruz Bill to Release Civil Rights Cold Case Records Passes Full Senate

Washington, DC – 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 the Senate with unanimous bipartisan support. 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, many of these documents are not publicly available and some remain classified unnecessarily. Since its introduction, Jones and Cruz have worked together to earn support for the bill both at the committee level and in the full Senate.

“This legislation means a great deal to the families and communities that have been impacted by these civil rights-era crimes, and I am so proud that we have been able to move the bill quickly through the Senate this year,” said Senator Jones, a former U.S. Attorney who successfully prosecuted two former Klansmen in 2001 and 2002 for the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that killed four young girls. “I understand well how important it is to confront the darkest moments in our history so that we can begin to heal and move forward together. This bill will unlock records that can help us better understand that history and give victims’ families a chance at a sense of closure. I thank Senator Cruz for his partnership in this effort and I look forward to seeing this bill move through the House and to the President’s desk.”

“During the civil rights movement, far too many violent crimes committed against black Americans went unsolved,” Senator Cruz said. “This bill attempts to address this injustice by disclosing case records so that the public—including private detectives, historians, victims, and victims’ families—may access these files, pursue leads, and document these tragic events. I want to thank Sen. Jones for his efforts on this important bill. It is my hope that this bill will bring justice for the victims, closure to their families, and another victory for the legacy of the civil rights movement.”

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.

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