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The Department of Justice on Monday closed a probe into the deaths of three civil rights workers during Mississippi’s “Freedom Summer,” according to a news statement.

The announcement came nearly 52 years to the day of the disappearances of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, who were brutally murdered while working as part of a massive campaign to register African-American voters in Mississippi in 1964.

The deaths shook the nation, and galvanized the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The deaths later served as a narrative for the movie Mississippi Burning.

Federal investigators have probed the case three times, helping to convict nine individuals for their roles in the crime, according to the DOJ:

In 2005, Edgar Ray Killen was convicted by a state jury of three counts of manslaughter based on new information that state and federal prosecutors discovered and pursued in 2000. With the passage of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act in 2008, the department reopened our investigation into the incident again in 2010. The department’s focus during this third investigation honed in on determining whether sufficient admissible evidence existed to support further state prosecution against any surviving person for involvement in the murders.

Mississippi Attorney General Hood has determined that despite one of the most intensely investigated and documented underlying investigations of any racially-motivated murder during the 1960s, followed by the exhaustive efforts of more recent reinvestigations, the passage of time has simply rendered additional prosecutions impossible. While legal and factual impediments sometimes prevent us from bringing cases we wish that we could, the Civil Rights Division remains dedicated to pursuing racially-motivated crimes wherever the facts allow.

Though the reinvestigation into their heinous deaths has formally closed, the DOJ says Americans must honor their legacy by forging ahead and continuing the fight to ensure that the founding promise of America is true for all of its inhabitants.



‘Mississippi Burning:’ Feds Close Probe Into Civil Rights-Era Deaths  was originally published on