FBI: No New Probe of Orangeburg Massacre

Friday, November 30, 2007

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The FBI will not reinvestigate the deaths of three black men killed during a civil rights protest because the state troopers involved were acquitted of all charges nearly 40 years ago, according to a report published online Thursday.

The FBI was considering whether to review the shootings known as the Orangeburg Massacre as part of its examination of a number of civil rights-era cases across the South.

The FBI decided not to proceed with another investigation of the shootings because it would violate constitutional protections against double jeopardy, Denise Taiste, a spokeswoman for the FBI's South Carolina office, told The Greenville News.

"Right now it doesn't look like they are going to reopen the matter," Taiste told the newspaper.

Phone messages left for Taiste and the U.S. attorney's office after hours Thursday by The Associated Press were not returned.

On Feb. 8, 1968, three civil rights demonstrators were killed and 27 wounded at the historically black college, which is now South Carolina State University, in Orangeburg. The shootings were the culmination of several days of protest because blacks were not allowed at a local bowling alley.

State charges were never filed in the case, but a probe at the time by the FBI led to charges against nine troopers. When a federal grand jury refused to indict the troopers, prosecutors decided to try them anyway on a charge of imposing summary punishment without due process of law.

A jury of 10 whites and two blacks acquitted all the defendants a little over a year later, finding they acted in self-defense.