Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $498,933)
Jefferson County, Alabama, Emmett Till Cold Case Project
Under Category 1 of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) FY21 Emmett Till Cold Case Investigation and Training and Technical Assistance Program, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s (JCDA) office proposes to:
Create a dedicated Civil Rights Cold Case Crimes Unit in the JCDA’s office, comprised of an Investigator, Prosecutor, and Project Manager to investigate and prosecute cold cases with crimes involving civil rights violations;
Partner with academic and community organizations, including the Jefferson County Memorial Project, to implement community education programming; and
Provide closure for victims, their families, and the Jefferson County community in order to begin communal healing and to prevent these incidents from occurring again.
Working alongside federal partners, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the JCDA will pursue cases involving murders associated with civil rights violations in Jefferson County prior to January 1, 1980, as well as begin the process of community healing from collective trauma while providing educational and emotional resources to maintain and strengthen trust with community members. This project will establish a dedicated Civil Rights Cold Case Crimes Unit that will launch a formal process for investigating and prosecuting these cases. Additionally, under the project, the JCDA will strengthen existing and create new partnerships with community organizations who can assist in communicating and publicizing actions taken concerning these cases. The new JCDA unit and partner organizations involved will allow for widespread community awareness of unsolved homicide cold case murders prior to January 1, 1980 suspected of having been racially motivated and implement effective strategies for investigation and prosecution.
The Jefferson County Memorial Project (JCMP), an integral partner in this project, is a grassroots coalition of Jefferson County, Alabama citizens who will support the JCDA’s prosecutorial efforts through expanded historical exploration on cases of civil rights violations. Moreover, JCMP will help the community heal by educating the public on the importance of that history and advocating for reform in the systems where injustice still exists today. Specifically, JCMP will provide support from the initial investigative period through the end of the grant project by engaging young adults from their Fellows Program as well as by developing and implementing impactful curriculum and resources, including a published report containing the project’s findings, for community conversations surrounding the purpose of this project.