Cold Case Justice Initiative

From the October 2014 PNL #838

by Barbara Humphrey

The Syracuse Peace Council is proud to bring the Cold Case Justice (CCJI) Initiative to its 2014 Birthday Dinner on Saturday, November 1 at Bellevue Heights Methodist Church (2112 S. Geddes St., Syracuse).  Following dinner at 6 pm, CCJI Directors, SU Law Professors Paula C. Johnson and Janis L. McDonald, will speak about this project. 

CCJI is an interdisciplinary project that engages Syracuse University College of Law faculty and students to seek justice for racially motivated murders during the Civil Rights era on behalf of their victims, families, local communities and society at large.

The CCJI project was founded at Syracuse University in response to the 1964 murder of Ferriday, LA, shop owner Frank Morris by suspected Ku Klux Klan members, a case that remains unsolved to this day. Under the supervision of College of Law Professors Johnson and McDonald, SU law students’ research led to witnesses providing new information on the case, the appointment of a special agent by the FBI, and a pledge by the US Attorney General’s Office for a full review of the case.  As a result, Professors Johnson and McDonald developed the course “Investigating and Reopening Unsolved Civil Rights Era Murders.” First offered during the 2007-08 academic year, this course introduces students to civil rights history and law; criminal procedure, evidence and advocacy skills; and global human rights in the context of investigating civil rights era murder cases in the US. 

In addition to its investigations and research into unsolved cases and academic course offerings, CCJI offers public forums and other special events, and serves as a clearinghouse for sharing and receiving information on active cases.  CCJI not only focuses vigilant attention on these long unresolved, racially motivated killings of the past, but also on continuing issues of racial justice, such as the deaths resulting from police brutality in primarily poor communities of color.