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Alabama grand jury issues sealed indictment in 1965 civil rights protest death

[JURIST] An Alabama grand jury issued a sealed indictment Wednesday in the 1965 shooting and death of 26-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson [Sojourners report] by state trooper James Bonard Fowler during an attempt by state troopers to disperse a protest against the jailing of a civil rights worker. The indictment, which will remain sealed until it is served, is expected to name Fowler, who says he acted in self-defense. Perry County District Attorney Michael Jackson, elected in 2004, revived the dormant case in 2005. Jackson said there are "strong witnesses" to support the prosecution despite the death of two FBI [official website] agents who originally investigated the killing and the destruction of journalists' photographic evidence by the state troopers during the dispersal. Jackson's death helped spark the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches [Wikipedia backgrounder].

The indictment falls in line with a recent trend in settling unfinished civil rights [JURIST news archive] cases. In 2004, the US Justice Department re-opened the case of Emmett Till [JURIST report], who was abducted and murdered in August 1955 in Money, Mississippi. The next year, however, the FBI declined to file federal civil rights charges [JURIST report] and subsequently turned over the case to the local Mississippi district attorney. In February, a Mississippi grand jury refused to indict a suspect in the case [JURIST report] due to lack of sufficient evidence. AP has more.

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