About




About the LSU Cold Case Project

A Manship School of Mass Communication effort to bring closure to unsolved Civil Rights-era, Klan-related homicides in Louisiana and southern Mississippi.

Since 2009, nearly 100 Manship School undergraduate and graduate students have focused on a dozen unsolved regional hate murders from the 1960s.

These cases were part of an FBI Cold Case Initiative to re-examine 112 cases from the Civil Rights era in which mostly African Americans died or disappeared through violent Ku Klux Klan activity. Teams of students have obtained, under the Freedom of Information Act, previously confidential FBI investigative reports from field agents gathered at the time. They are in possession of the FBI or stored at the National Archives. 

LSU Cold Case Project Students Matthew Clark (left) and Alyssa Berry (right) interview Henry Austan, a member of the Deacons for Defense and Justice. | Credit: JBriaan Johnson/LSU Cold Case Project

Our Mission

The LSU Cold Case Project is a field experience class for students at the Manship School of Mass Communication where students investigate, conduct interviews, collect and analyze FBI documents, and write stories about civil-rights era Cold Cases. Our mission is to shed new light on these historical events while giving a voice to a witnesses and victims’ families.


Awards


2019

 In 2019, the initial feature about the Deacons for Defense story won four-state regional Society for Professional Journalists award for feature writing and was the first award won by our Cold Case Project. 

2021

In 2021, the Deacons for Defense four-part series won first place in features, print/online from the Society of Professional Journalists. 

2022

In 2022, the Robert Fuller series won that same SPJ regional student awards contest, this time in a new category called “Student – Special Projects.”

2022

Also this year, Rachel Mipro came in third nationally in explanatory reporting in the prestigious Hearst Awards for student journalists for her work on the first story in the Fuller series.

2022

LSU Cold Case was named as one of 30 national semifinalists for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting awarded by Harvard University’s Schornstein Center for the Robert Fuller series. Our entry was the only one of the semifinalists reported and written by students instead of professional journalists.

Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act


In 2007, Congress enacted the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, which directed the U.S. Department of Justice to reopen investigations into more than 100 Civil Rights-related cold case homicides from the 1950s and 1960s. This Act, reprinted below, was the genesis of the LSU Cold Case Project.

One Hundred Tenth Congress of the United States of America
At the Second Session

Begun and held at the City of Washington on Thursday, the third day of January, two thousand and eight

H. R. 923


AN ACT

To provide for the investigation of certain unsolved civil rights crimes, and for other purposes.


Section 1. Short title

This Act may be cited as the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007.

Section 2. Sense of Congress

It is the sense of Congress that all authorities with jurisdiction, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other entities within the Department of Justice, should—
(1) expeditiously investigate unsolved civil rights murders, due to the amount of time that has passed since the murders and the age of potential witnesses; and
(2) provide all the resources necessary to ensure timely and thorough investigations in the cases involved.

Section 3. Deputy Chief of the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division

(a) In General
      The Attorney General shall designate a Deputy Chief in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
(b) Responsibility
     (1)In general
          The Deputy Chief shall be responsible for coordinating the investigation and prosecution of violations of criminal civil rights statutes that occurred not later than December 31, 1969, and resulted in a death.
      (2) Coordination 
          In investigating a complaint under paragraph (1), the Deputy Chief may coordinate investigative activities with State and local law enforcement officials.
(c) Study and Report
         (1)Study
              The Attorney General shall annually conduct a study of the cases under the jurisdiction of the Deputy Chief or under the jurisdiction of the Supervisory Special Agent and, in conducting the study, shall determine—
               (A) the number of open investigations within the Department for violations of criminal civil rights statutes that occurred not later than December 31, 1969;
               (B) the number of new cases opened pursuant to this Act since the previous year’s study;
               (C) the number of unsealed Federal cases charged within the study period, including the case names, the jurisdiction in which the charges were brought, and the date the charges were filed;
               (D) the number of cases referred by the Department to a State or local law enforcement agency or prosecutor within the study period, the number of such cases that resulted in State charges being filed, the jurisdiction in which such charges were filed, the date the charges were filed, and if a jurisdiction declines to prosecute or participate in an investigation of a case so referred, the fact it did so;
               (E) the number of cases within the study period that were closed without Federal prosecution, the case names of unsealed Federal cases, the dates the cases were closed, and the relevant federal statutes;
               (F) the number of attorneys who worked, in whole or in part, on any case described in subsection (b)(1); and
               (G) the applications submitted for grants under section 5, the award of such grants, and the purposes for which the grant amount were expended.
         (2) Report
               Not later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act, and each year thereafter, the Attorney General shall prepare and submit to Congress a report containing the results of the study conducted under paragraph (1).

Section 4. Supervisory Special Agent in the Civil Rights Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

(a) In General
      The Attorney General shall designate a Supervisory Special Agent in the Civil Rights Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the Department of Justice.
(b) Responsibility
      (1) In general
           The Supervisory Special Agent shall be responsible for investigating violations of criminal civil rights statutes that occurred not later than December 31, 1969, and resulted in a death.
      (2) Coordination
            In investigating a complaint under paragraph (1), the Supervisory Special Agent may coordinate the investigative activities with State and local law enforcement officials.

Section 5. Grants to State and local law enforcement

(a) In general
        The Attorney General may award grants to State or local law enforcement agencies for expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution by them of criminal offenses, involving civil rights, that occurred not later than December 31, 1969, and resulted in a death.
(b) Authorization of appropriations
      There are authorized to be appropriated $2,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2017 to carry out this section.

Section 6. Authorization of appropriations

(a) In general
      There are authorized to be appropriated, in addition to any other amounts otherwise authorized to be appropriated for this purpose, to the Attorney General $10,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2017 for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting violations of criminal civil rights statutes that occurred not later than December 31, 1969, and resulted in a death. These funds shall be allocated by the Attorney General to the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division and the Supervisory Special Agent of the Civil Rights Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in order to advance the purposes set forth in this Act.
(b) Community Relations Service of the Department of Justice
      In addition to any amounts authorized to be appropriated under title XI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000h et seq.), there are authorized to be appropriated to the Community Relations Service of the Department of Justice $1,500,000 for fiscal year 2008 and each subsequent fiscal year, to enable the Service (in carrying out the functions described in title X of such Act (42 U.S.C. 2000g et seq.)) to provide technical assistance by bringing together law enforcement agencies and communities in the investigation of violations of criminal civil rights statutes, in cases described in section 4(b).

Section 7. Definition of criminal civil rights statutes

In this Act, the term criminal civil rights statutes means—
(1) section 241 of title 18, United States Code (relating to conspiracy against rights);
(2) section 242 of title 18, United States Code (relating to deprivation of rights under color of law);
(3) section 245 of title 18, United States Code (relating to federally protected activities);
(4) sections 1581 and 1584 of title 18, United States Code (relating to involuntary servitude and peonage);
(5) section 901 of the Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. 3631); and
(6) any other Federal law that—
      (A) was in effect on or before December 31, 1969; and
      (B) the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice enforced, before the date of enactment of this Act.

Section 8. Sunset

Sections 2 through 6 of this Act shall cease to have effect at the end of fiscal year 2017.

Section 9. Authority of Inspectors General

Title XXXVII of the Crime Control Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 5779 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:

Section 3703. Authority of Inspectors General

(a) In general
      An Inspector General appointed under section 3 or 8G of the Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.) may authorize staff to assist the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children—
      (1) by conducting reviews of inactive case files to develop recommendations for further investigations; and
      (2) by engaging in similar activities.
(b) Limitations
      (1) Priority
            An Inspector General may not permit staff to engage in activities described in subsection
(a) if such activities will interfere with the duties of the Inspector General under the Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.).
      (2) Funding
            No additional funds are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section.

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