Sen. Claire McCaskill and Rep. John Lewis

U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill and Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina this week led a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce a renewal of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, which would continue Department of Justice and FBI efforts to investigate and prosecute unsolved racially-motivated murders.

“Now’s not the time to let up on our efforts to investigate and prosecute these heinous, racially-motivated murders—the loved ones and communities affected by this violence deserve justice, no matter how long it’s been denied to them,” said McCaskill. “Too many civil rights-era cases remain unsolved, so we should keep these vital tools available so federal investigators can keep working toward long overdue justice.”

McCaskill, a strong supporter of efforts to investigate racially-motivated crimes helped lead the legislation’s original passage in 2008. The bill’s provisions will expire in 2017 if it is not renewed, and she worked closely with civil rights-advocate Alvin Sykes of Kansas City to advance the renewal.

The 2008 Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act provided a means to investigate and prosecute racially-motivated murders that occurred on or before December 31, 1969. The legislation established offices within the Department of Justice and FBI to investigate and prosecute murders from the civil rights era, and authorized $10 million annually for investigations and $2 million for grants to states in order to support this work. The bill’s renewal would continue the allocation and provides for the investigation of all racially-motivated murders, despite date of occurrence.

Democratic Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia has introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House.

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