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Public Statements

Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act Of 2007

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


EMMETT TILL UNSOLVED CIVIL RIGHTS CRIME ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - June 20, 2007)

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Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 923, the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007. I am a cosponsor of H.R. 923, which has broad bipartisan support.

At the full committee markup of this legislation last week, members from both sides of the aisle, as Chairman Conyers just mentioned, and from all backgrounds and experiences joined together to ensure the swift prosecution of civil rights-era crimes, which were oftentimes ignored.

It is appropriate that the House consider this legislation today, Mr. Speaker. Last week marked the 44th anniversary of the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. Before his death, Medgar Evers was a primary, although unofficial, investigator of the Emmett Till murder. The committee was privileged to hear from his widow, Mrs. Myrlie Evers William. She movingly testified that the conviction of Medgar's killer in 1994, 31 years after his murder, gave a sense of hope to those who experienced this bleak time in our Nation's history.

Last week also marked an enormous victory in the fight to bring justice to unsolved civil rights-era murders. A Mississippi jury convicted former Klansman James Ford Seale for his role in the 1964 kidnapping and murder of 19-year-olds Charlie Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee.

Unfortunately, time is running out for other unsolved civil rights-era murders. To date, the FBI has identified nearly 100 outstanding cases that still need to be solved. Many of these crimes are 30 to 40 years old. Evidence has been lost or destroyed, witnesses and defendants have died, and memories have dimmed. We must act swiftly to help bring long overdue justice to the victims, their families, and the communities that these brutal crimes affected.

H.R. 923 directs the Attorney General to designate a deputy chief within the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice to coordinate the investigation and prosecution of unsolved civil rights-era murders. The bill also directs the Attorney General to designate a supervisory special agent within the Civil Rights Unit of the FBI to further investigate these outstanding cases.

Finally, the bill provides much-needed resources to the Department of Justice, the FBI, and State and local law enforcement officials to prosecute these same cases.

Mr. Speaker, I want to especially thank Chairman Conyers and Representatives NADLER, FRANKS, SCOTT, and FORBES, members of the Judiciary Committee, for their commitment to this legislation.

I hope my colleagues will support this much-needed bill.

Mr. Speaker, I yield the balance of my time to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Forbes), the ranking member of the Crime Subcommittee, and I ask unanimous consent that he be allowed to control that time.

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