Georgia lawmakers propose bill for lynching cold case task force

ATLANTA — With a federal anti-lynching act about to become law, Georgia Democrats are pushing for legislation to help solve lynching cases in Georgia that have gone cold.

Channel 2′s Steve Gehlbach spoke with lawmakers at the state capitol.

In the same week the U.S. Congress passed the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act and it is set to become law — making lynching a federal hate crime — Georgia’s Legislative Black Caucus, the Urban League of Atlanta, Anti-Defamation League and NAACP want state leaders to pass HB-155 to look at Georgia’s lynching cold cases.

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Rep. Carl Gilliard, the bill’s sponsor, said it would let the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and GBI form a cold-case unit.

“You can have a commission that actually investigates those individuals that have taken lives,” he said.

Rep. Mike Wilensky, the only Jewish member of Georgia House or Senate and the second signer on the bill, brought up the lynching of Leo Frank in Marietta and how the stone at that site was vandalized, knocked over just two weeks ago.

“This is the time this bill should be passed, to bring back and research and look into all these cold cases,” he said.


Wilensky and other leaders said their legislation isn’t about Black or white or memorials and markers, but about finding the truth.

“It’s not just what happened then. It goes generation to generation and really important to go back and look and allow the family to learn what happened, who did this harm and that can give closure,” Wilensky said.

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HB-155 won’t pass this session, but their hope is to start the discussion now, hold study sessions and then bring it to a vote at the state capitol next year.

“It’s holding people accountable, telling their story. Out of this, hopefully Georgia can come closer together to identify these cases and put them back on the front burner after being placed on back burner for so many years,” Gilliard said.