Pugh Institute for Justice Hosts Cold Case Justice Initiative

Paula C. Johnson and Janis L. McDonald, both Syracuse University Law Professors, will speak on Tuesday, January 27, at the LSU Law Center about the Cold Case Justice Initiative. The initiative is an interdisciplinary project with Law and Journalism students investigating unsolved civil rights murders in the South.

The event, presented by the Law Center’s George W. and Jean H. Pugh Institute for Justice, will be held in Room 110 of the Law Center from 12:40 p.m. to 2:10 p.m. Students are encouraged to attend, as is the general public.

The Cold Case Justice Initiative was established in early 2007 by Johnson and McDonald to assist the families of those killed by acts of racial hatred and violence in the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s. More than 50 law students have volunteered to investigate long buried information that might help persuade the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice, or local law enforcement officials to prosecute these unsolved murders.

“There is important momentum in Louisiana for righting the wrongs of the past,” McDonald said. “Our work with communities in Ferriday, Clayton, Vidalia, Baton Rouge, and others give us hope that the families of unsolved civil rights-era murders will finally get the justice they deserve after all these years. We hope that there will be many collaborative efforts between local and federal law enforcement, law schools, responsible community members, media, and others to join in giving these unsolved murders the attention they deserve.”

Johnson currently serves as co-president of the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT), a national organization of approximately 800 law professors. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, her J.D. from Temple University School of Law, and her LL.M. from Georgetown University Law Center. At Syracuse, she teaches criminal law, criminal procedure, voting rights, professional responsibility, and a seminar on women in the criminal justice system. She also has taught at the University of Arizona, the University of Baltimore, and Northern Illinois University.

In 2003, she received the Unsung Heroine Award from the Syracuse University Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Committee, and the Woman of the Year Award from the Syracuse University African American Male Congress.

McDonald is the Bond, Schoeneck & King Distinguished Professor and the co-director of the Cold Case Justice Initiative (“CCJI”). She and Johnson also co-teach a unique new interdisciplinary course, “Investigating and Reopening Civil Rights Era Murders,” with graduate students from the SUCOL and other graduate schools at Syracuse. The course received the 2008 Syracuse University Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement and Scholarship in Action.

Before joining the law faculty, McDonald taught at Ohio Northern University College of Law and Yale Law School. She was a Ford Foundation Fellow in Public and International Law and wrote several articles on civil rights litigation and American legal history. Several federal courts have cited her civil rights article.

The Pugh Institute for Justice is an Institute of the LSU Law Center founded in 1998 through charitable contributions to provide support for research, educational, and pro bono activities that promote justice for individuals in the administration of the criminal and civil justice systems in Louisiana and elsewhere.