Jefferson County Agencies Awarded Cold Case Homicide Investigation Grant

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FILE PHOTO: The DOJ logo is pictured on a wall after a news conference in New York

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The District Attorney’s Office of Jefferson County (Birmingham Division) and the Jefferson County Memorial Project (JCMP) have been awarded $498,933 of funding through the Department of Justice’s Emmett Till Cold Case Investigations and Training and Technical Assistance Program. The grant will support cold case homicide investigations by the District Attorney’s Office, as well as a community education and truth and reconciliation process implemented by JCMP.

The Emmett Till Cold Case Investigations Program was launched in 2020 to provide support to law enforcement and prosecutors in their investigations and prosecutions of cold case murders associated with civil rights violations occurring no later than December 31, 1979. The Emmett Till Cold Case program complements the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Acts, which have led to the closing of 118 homicide investigations by federal and local law enforcement and prosecutor agencies across the country. Ten of the civil rights era homicides closed through the earlier acts are from Alabama and can be found at Civil Rights Division Emmett Till Act (Cold Case Closing Memoranda).

“The people and communities of Jefferson County are forever shaped by the crime and terror that occurred here to prevent the full equality of all people before the law. The legacy of that era, including possible unresolved crimes, deserve the full sunlight of day and a comprehensive review”, said District Attorney Danny Carr. “I’m grateful for the resources that can assist my office’s efforts to bring healing and justice in our time to the families of victims and our community that were forever harmed by the hate, terror, and violence that once lived among and around us.”  

“For most of Jefferson County’s existence, racial terror and violence pervaded our community. Lynchings, bombings, violence, and terror were the means that criminals brazenly wielded with impunity”, said Joi Brown, Executive Director of the Jefferson County Memorial Project. “The telling of this history of violence and harm will and should make us uncomfortable. It was reprehensible and an abomination to every value that our society says it holds dear”, added Brown. “However, we still have in our community the decedents and surviving family members of victims of this violence. JCMP will care for the victims of violence, their families, and our community by ensuring that their story is told, so that our community will never forget and will never go back to being the place of hate, violence, and terror that it once was.”

“The mission of law enforcement and prosecutors to seek justice for the victims of homicides and their families does not have an expiration date. We will ardently partner with and support efforts of the District Attorney’s Office and our federal and local law enforcement partners to bring relief to families of victims and our community,” said United States Attorney Prim Escalona. “The Department of Justice was founded in 1870 for the express purpose of combatting civil rights terror and violence. That mission and charge have never left the Department of Justice or federal law enforcement. The support brought by the Emmett Till program is a sobering reminder both of the cruel harm once done in our community and our charge to endlessly seek justice in response to it.”

The Jefferson County Memorial Project will partner with Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project (CRRJ) to provide technical and training assistance to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, as well as community-oriented truth and reconciliation conversations related to the Emmett Till Project. Founded in 2018, the Jefferson County Memorial Project is a grassroots multi-racial, multi-faith, multi-sector, multi-generational coalition working toward educating the public on the difficult history of racial terror and placing markers in memory of Jefferson County’s lynching victims. Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project was founded by and is led by Birmingham native Margaret Burnham.  The CRRJ supports the academic and teaching projects of scholars within and beyond Northeastern University, and the restorative justice efforts in communities to honor this history.

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