WASHINGTON (AP) — A law designed to extend federal and state reviews of cold cases of racially motivated killings during the civil rights era is one step closer to being renewed.
A unanimous Senate voted Thursday evening to permanently renew a 2007 law that calls for a full accounting of race-based murders, many of which had been closed for decades. The law expires next year.
More than 100 cases from the 1960s and earlier have been checked out, with one conviction. But new racially suspicious murders have been identified for investigation. In many cases such crimes were poorly investigated and prosecutions were rare.
North Carolina GOP Sen. Richard Burr and Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill sponsored the measure, which now heads to the House. There, civil rights icon John Lewis, D-Ga., is the top sponsor.
“There are still too many unsolved murders and too many families who do not know the truth about what happened to their loved ones,” Burr said. “This remains deeply troubling, but I know that this bill will help bring the truth to light and hold those accountable for atrocities committed decades ago.”
The bill is named after Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy murdered in 1955 after whistling at a white woman. His killers were acquitted of murder but later admitted their crimes to a reporter and couldn’t be retried.
The Senate measure would also update the 2007 law and encourage investigations of more recent racially motivated crimes, which Burr said could offer comfort to families of victims of unsolved crimes even if the statute of limitations has passed.