New York Lawmakers Urge For 1955 Till Slaying Case To Be Reopened

Two New York lawmakers called on the federal government Tuesday to open a new investigation into the nearly 50-year-old race killing of a black teen in Mississippi that sparked the civil rights movement.

Rep. Charles Rangel and Sen. Charles Schumer, both D-N.Y., argued that evidence uncovered in a new documentary points to possible accomplices in the killing of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago who was slain in 1955 for supposedly whistling at a white woman.

The gruesome crime became a rallying point for the civil rights movement after Till's mother insisted his funeral casket remain open in order to show the damage done to her son's body.

Two men were charged but acquitted of the crime, which protected them from further prosecution. They later confessed to the killing in a magazine interview. They have since died.

Keith Beachamp, a filmmaker from Brooklyn, claims eyewitness statements made to him while making "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till'' show as many as seven other people, both white and black, were involved in Till's abduction or murder, and that some of them are still alive today.

Beachamp has given those names to authorities.

"We have the evidence to move forward,'' Rangel said.

Schumer called on the Department of Justice to act "quickly, thoroughly, and fearlessly.''

Kenneth Thompson, a former federal prosecutor who handled the Abner Louima case, is working with Beachamp to push for a new investigation, and said one witness in particular could be extremely important.

"If the truth is there's no one else alive who is culpable, we will accept that,'' he said.

A Department of Justice spokeswoman did not immediately return a call for comment.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)