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Mother of Slain Civil Rights Worker Urges Senate to Pass Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act

[Fannie L. Chaney is the mother of James Chaney, who, along with Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, was murdered by a gang of Klansmen in Neshoba County, MS, June 21 1964. --BG]

August 1, 2006

To Members of the United States Senate


Dear Senator,

I am writing to seek your support for the Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, Senate Bill No. S. 2679 which calls for the Department of Justice and the F.B.I. to investigate surviving perpetrators of racial violence that took place up to 1970. The Bill is sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans. It makes available to prosecutors F.B.I. files which the Department of Justice has been reluctant to release to local states. Such files include the so-called “informant files.”

The importance of the Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act cannot be understated. In the fall of 2004, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood publicly announced that he was requesting the assistance of the F.B.I. to investigate the murders of James Chaney, Andy Goodman and Michael Schwerner. Instead of filing a request with the Justice Department, Mr. Hood investigated the case on his own and, in January 2005 introduced evidence on only one defendant before a Neshoba County Grand Jury. That defendant, Edgar Ray Killen was convicted in June 2005.

Days before the trial, Mr. Hood met with the families and told us that he had presented evidence to the Grand Jury concerning all the living “suspects” in the case and that the Grand Jury only returned an indictment against Mr. Killen. In the fall of last year we discovered that the reason the Grand Jury issued only one indictment was because Mr. Hood had introduced evidence on only one man, Edgar Ray Killen. Had Mr. Hood been sincere in his quest for justice and used the resources of the Justice Department, he could not have avoided presenting evidence to the Grand Jury on the role of a multi-millionaire in Neshoba County who was involved in the murders and on whose property (the Old Jolly Farm) the bodies were found. Nor could he have avoided evidence on the involvement of a former State Legislator who served on the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission and spent his career obstructing justice in this case.

The Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act would reduce, to some degree, the “delay”, “stall” and/or “play stupid” tactics used by some county and state District Attorneys to protect the influential members of their community who participated in these crimes. The Bill would put a stop to their feigning ignorance. It offers the best opportunity for full disclosure of all the evidence in these cases and will bring closure to the families and to the communities in which the murders took place.

The Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act is perhaps the most important piece of civil rights legislation since the 1960's.

I have hoped and prayed for over 40 years for justice including full disclosure and the complete prosecution of all those involved in the murder of my son James, and his companions, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. Therefore I urged you and your colleagues in the U.S. Senate to pass the Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act this week, so that those who participated in these horrible crimes can receive the justice that has been long overdue.

Fannie L. Chaney

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Jonathan David Jacks August 4, 2006, 2:58 am

    Congratulations on your new blog-design. It is clear, classic, and swell and that was just the design. Your persistance in following various stories of Mississippi injustice is always extremely instructive to me.

  • Benjamin T. Greenberg August 4, 2006, 4:16 am

    Thanks for your comment, Jonathan. It is nice to have you as the first commenter on the new site.

  • Brad Jolly February 25, 2007, 1:22 am

    I am also grateful for the informative follow-up on these stories. Although my family was not involved, (I believe my great-grandfather owned this farm decades prior), I am still affected today by what took place long before I was born. I often wonder if I too would have had the courage these three men had in their day to stand and act on behalf of what it right. I have it today, thanks to wonderful influences in my life; my family, God, and thanks to theses three men as well.

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