Justice Department re-examines cold cases - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Justice Department re-examines cold cases

February 27, 2007

Washington -- Civil rights era murder cases are being re-opened, and that could include some murders that happened right here in South Georgia.

The U. S. Justice Department announced today an investigation into about a dozen murders that happened between 1952 and 1968. The most noted Civil Rights death is probably that of the founder of the movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior.

"There's a quote from Dr. King. He was fond of saying though the moral arc of the universe may be long, it bends toward justice,"  said US Attorney General  Alberto Gonzales.

Justice for some of the people murdered at the hands of those who never second guessed their actions.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says, "Much time has passed on these crimes. The wounds they left are deep, and still many of them have not healed."

Not healed from the senseless killing of men like 31-year old James Brazier of Dawson. In 1958, Brazier, a veteran of World War II, was beaten to death in front of his wife and children by two police officers.

One month later, Willie Countryman was shot and killed in his Dawson yard.

Gonzales says the people responsible for the murders should be prepared to come to terms with their actions. "And to those individuals who committed these crimes, and have lived with their guilty consciences for these many years, our message should be clear.. you have not gotten away with anything. We are still on your trail."

Unfortunately in many cases, that trail has gone cold.

"In many cases, there was no investigation at all," says FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Actually some of the people murdered died at the hands of law enforcement officers, like C. H. Pickett of Columbus, a part-time minister beaten to death while in police custody.

"These cases from that era still cry out for justice, they need to be investigated as best as possible." Mueller said.

Including other deaths like that of Alphonso Harris who was killed in Albany because he organized a civil rights activity.

Thomas Brewer of Columbus was shot seven times by a white politician who was never indicted.

And then there is the case of Willie Joe Sanford, whose naked body was raised from the bottom of a creek where it had been wired to undergrowth in the water.

"We are committed to re-examining these cases and doing all we can to bring justice to the criminals who may have avoided punishment for so long," says Gonzales.

FBI Director Robert Mueller says, "Justice has been delayed, but we are determined that justice will not be denied. We'll do everything we can to close these cases and to close this dark chapter in our nation's history."

A history that for so long has lacked justice, but is finally bending in that direction.

The Southern Poverty Law Center gathered information on the deaths and gave that information to the FBI which is investigating the killings.

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