Scant Progress Seen in Effort to Solve Old Racial Killings

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In February 2007, Alberto R. Gonzales, the attorney general under President George W. Bush, issued a stern warning to those who murdered blacks with impunity during the civil rights era: “You have not gotten away with anything. We are still on your trail.”

He noted that time was short. The window of opportunity to solve racially motivated crimes more than 40 years old was closing. Families of the victims had waited decades for resolution.

More than three years later, they are still waiting.

There have been no federal indictments since Mr. Gonzales’s announcement, which heralded the Civil Rights-Era Cold Case Initiative. Very little of the millions of dollars approved by Congress to finance the initiative has materialized. Though 40-year-old murder cases are incredibly difficult to solve, no Federal Bureau of Investigation field agents have been assigned to pursue the cases full time.

Those who hoped for an intensive, all-out law enforcement effort to beat the clock, akin to the search for Eric Robert Rudolph or the Unabomber, have been sorely disappointed. Instead, witnesses say the F.B.I. has taken months or years to approach them, even as key suspects have died....

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