TIME Quotes Janis McDonald in Story on Lynching Cold Case

Posted on Wednesday 2/28/2018
Janis McDonald

(TIME | Feb. 27, 2018) It was the summer of 1946 when two young black couples riding along a rural road were stopped by a white mob in Georgia at Moore’s Ford Bridge, overlooking the Apalachee River. The mob dragged the victims from the vehicle, led them to the riverbank and shot them multiple times.

The brazen lynching of the four sharecroppers horrified the country that year. President Harry Truman sent the FBI to the site in rural Walton County. Months of investigation yielded dozens of possible suspects. But a federal grand jury failed to indict anyone. The case was revisited several times decades later, and just last month Georgia’s top law enforcement agency closed its latest investigation not long after the FBI concluded its latest review, saying no one remained to prosecute because all the likely killers were dead.

Despite all that, activists and others who spent countless hours studying the slayings and trying to raise awareness still hope answers will surface.

“We want to perfect the record for history’s sake, to make sure this case is never forgotten,” said Tyrone Brooks, a veteran civil rights activist who began looking into the lynching in 1968 at the request of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Even if no one is ultimately prosecuted for the deaths of Roger and Dorothy Malcom and George and Mae Murray Dorsey, it’s important to know what happened and who was involved, said Brooks, a former state lawmaker.

Particularly in recent decades, hopes of cracking the case have led civil rights activists, journalists, students, cold case groups and historians to the bridge and surrounding towns, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Atlanta, seeking clues or trying to coax people into talking. But the community’s hesitancy to talk — out of fear or unwillingness — has persisted, much as it stymied investigators long ago ...

... Janis McDonald, co-director of the Cold Case Justice Initiative at Syracuse University College of Law, said some of her students worked on the case in 2015. She said that at least with the investigative files now publicly released, a fresh set of eyes might find something new.

She said it was vital to keep studying this and other big cold cases.

“The reason this is so important is that we’re still facing all this racial conflict, and acknowledgement is the only real key to healing,” McDonald said. “You’ve got to acknowledge that the wound is there, and that hasn’t happened here.”

The full story can be read here.