College Seeks To Solve Civil Rights-Era Cold Case Murders

Jul 21, 2015

Actors reenact the 1946 lynching of two black couples, including a woman who was seven months pregnant, at the Moore's Ford Bridge in Monroe, Georgia. No one has ever been charged in the murders.
Credit John Bazemore / AP Photo

Syracuse University Law Professor Janis McDonald is a leader of the schools Cold Case Justice Initiative, which seeks to reopen civil rights-era murder cases that remain unsolved.
Credit Brenna Beech / WABE

Imagine having a family member murdered and never knowing who committed the act or even where your loved one is buried. It sounds like a plot from a horror story and, in fact, it is. It’s a modern day horror story that still haunts hundreds of families to this day.

Between the early 1940s and late 1960s hundreds of activists in the civil rights movement were murdered across the South. Many of the victims were never found or identified – leaving their anguished families to wonder and question what became of them.

Syracuse University’s Cold Case Justice Initiative wants to change that. Law students, working to help alleviate the pain and suffering even a half century later, review old information and re-investigate the cases, in the hopes that their efforts might help convince authorities to prosecute the cold case murders.

Syracuse University law student Alphonse Williams is one of the students taking part in the Syracuse University Cold Case Justice Initiative to try and solve old, civil rights-era murder cases.
Credit Brenna Beech / WABE

The CCJI is investigating almost 200 cases, led by SU College of Law Professor Janis McDonald.

McDonald and one of her students, Grady High School graduate Alphonse Williams discussed the program, what it involves, the law governing the cases and more on “A Closer Look.”