SU College of Law professors, students assess FBI documents in hopes of reopening unsolved 1964 civil rights murder case
SU College of Law professors, students assess FBI documents in hopes of reopening unsolved 1964 civil rights murder caseMay 07, 2007Jaime Winne Alvarezjlwinne@syr.edu
Syracuse University College of Law Professors Janis McDonald and Paula Johnson and a group of SU law students are volunteering to assess FBI documents — newly obtained under the Freedom of Information Act — on the unsolved civil rights murder case of Frank Morris in Ferriday, La. In 1964, Morris, a 51-year-old African American shoe store owner, died of his burns four days after suspected Ku Klux Klan members forced him back into his store and burned it to the ground.
Before his death, Morris provided some information to the FBI, but no one was ever indicted by state or federal authorities for the crime. Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice indicated a willingness to reopen some of the 74 unsolved murders that occurred during the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and ’60s.
Stanley Nelson, editor of the Concordia Sentinel weekly newspaper in the Ferriday area, publishes new information on the Morris murder case each week. Based on McDonald’s background as a former civil rights litigator and criminal defense attorney, Nelson sought her assistance in bringing the Morris case back to the attention of proper authorities.
Johnson, an expert in criminal law and procedure who has written and spoken extensively on matters of race, gender and law, will work with McDonald and the law students on the document review. Through their work, the group hopes its efforts will persuade the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to reopen the investigation.
“This is an important opportunity for law students and the Syracuse University College of Law to provide a service that matters,” says McDonald. “If we can use our skills to help get justice for Mr. Morris and his family, then we are part of a wider community statement that no matter how long it takes, these murderers will be held accountable for this atrocity.”
SU law students participating in the document review include Tahanie Aboushi of Staten Island, N.Y.; Ross Alexander of Indianapolis; Kelly Bunch of Valley Head, Ala.; Daniel Forrest of Gaithersburg, Md.; Carlos Hernandez, Jr. of Rockville, Md.; Rachael Hogan of Syracuse, N.Y.; Katherine Lawler of Timonium, Md.; Linnea Mitchem of Orland Park, Ill.; Divya Pakkiasamy of Shreveport, La.; Thang Pham of Fremont, Calif.; Omar Qudrat of Syracuse, N.Y.; Jonathan Saine of Denver; Paul Stylianou of Orlando, Fla.; Tashia Thomas of Syracuse, N.Y.; Adam Wolek of Chicago; Noah Young of New York City; and Pamela Young of Bartow, Fla.