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SPLC gives FBI case files on civil rights-era killings

MONTGOMERY (AP) — The Southern Poverty Law Center has sent the FBI its files on what the Montgomery-based organization believes are 74 unsolved racially motivated civil rights-era killings.

The files include nine Alabama cases, with most of the other victims from the Deep South states. They died between 1952 and 1968. The SPLC has had the list since the late 1980s and has made it public a number of times. It was posted on the organization's Web site in 2003 and 2004.

The decision to send the entire list, along with the accompanying files, to the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. comes in the wake of an FBI directive to its field offices to canvass their files for any unresolved civil rights-era killings.

In a statement, SPLC president and CEO J. Richard Cohen said "for too long, people thought that nothing could be done about those who had literally gotten away with murder during the civil rights era."

Making reference to the 2005 manslaughter conviction of Edgar Killen of the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, Cohen said, "But as we've seen in recent years with the successful prosecutions of murderers like Edgar Ray Killen, Dr. (Martin Luther) King was right when he said that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice.

"It's our hope that investigators will continue to prove the point."

The Anniston Star reported in a story Friday that one of the cases involved Thad Christian, a father of seven, who was shot by a white man named Robert E. Haynes in August 1965.

The newspaper's archives show that Haynes pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in May of 1966 and was sentenced to five years in prison. He later escaped from a prison work farm in Fort Payne, but was arrested by FBI agents in Tampa.

A Star story from November 1966 mentions that Haynes was expected to be returned to Calhoun County.

The other Alabama cases on the SPLC list were in Fort Deposit in 1957, Andalusia in 1956, Birmingham in 1963, two in Camden in 1967, Lisman (Choctaw County) in 1964, Montgomery in 1952, and a case in Pike County listed with no date.

The list of 74 names sent to the FBI is alphabetical and includes the time and place of each death and a brief description of what happened.

Since 1989, authorities in seven states have re-examined 29 killings from the civil rights era and made 28 arrests and obtained 22 convictions, according to SPLC.

Legislation that would give the Justice Department and the FBI the ability to reopen civil rights era cold cases was reintroduced in Congress on Feb. 8.

On the Net:

www.southernpovertylawcenter.org

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Information from: The Anniston Star, www.annistonstar.com/

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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