Rush Calls for Civil Rights Cold Cases to Be Declassified to Bring Justice and Closure to Families

Mar 1, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) introduced H.R. 1272 the “Cold Case Record Collections Act of 2017” to help bring justice and closure to unsolved cases stemming from the Civil Rights era.

This act allows for citizens to request certain documents from civil rights cold cases to be declassified. Currently, the classification of these documents prevents private citizens from investigating decades old cases that are still unsolved, and are unlikely to be solved exclusively by federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ).

“There are far too many unsolved crimes from the Civil Rights Movement that remain a mystery yet there is critical information found in federal case files,” Rush said. “Families and people in general deserve to know what has happened to bring closure and justice to those involved.” Approximately 113 civil rights cold cases remain unsolved. Up until now, almost none of the cold cases solved were done exclusively by federal agencies. Cases that were solved required the help of outside investigators. Additionally, these investigators required access to documents from agencies such as the FBI and DOJ in order to solve their cases. The Cold Case Record Collections Act of 2017 provides a more efficient method of declassifying and releasing such documents to the public. This will, in turn, enable outside investigators to be able to solve cold cases more often as they will have access to more documents.

The Cold Case Record Collections Act of 2017 establishes the following:

  • The “Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection” at the National Archives.
  • An independent agency known as the Cold Case Records Review Board.
  • Guidelines for the Cold Case Records Review Board to follow.
  • Rules and requirements for appointments to the Cold Case Records Review Board.
  • Procedures for the approval of declassification and release of documents reviewed by the Cold Case Records Review Board.

Currently, the Emmett Till Act encourages the DOJ to investigate these civil rights cold cases. “Though this is a good step towards finding justice, it is not enough,” Rush said. “Outside investigators are needed to help solve these cases. Many cases exist where the perpetrators are dead and thus are no longer open to prosecution. The Cold Case Record Collections Act of 2017 allows for documents concerning such cases to be released as well. This can provide the much needed closure for families of the victims.”