Syracuse professors honored for cold case work
posted Monday, March 23rd, 2009 @ 2:47 pm
Two Syracuse University law professors whose initial interest in investigating the death of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris two years ago led to the creation of the Cold Case Justice Initiative have been honored by the university.
Syracuse University Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor on March 19 said she has directed $2 million in external funding SU recently received toward 19 Chancellor's Leadership Projects, including the Cold Case Justice Initiative led by professors Janis McDonald and Paula Johnson.
She said the projects exemplify the university's vision of Scholarship in Action and bring together faculty, students and experts from various disciplines to address critical societal issues affecting the Central New York community and the larger world.
After an initial chance meeting in the spring of 2007, Concordia Sentinel Editor Stanley Nelson asked McDonald for research help in the probe of Frank Morris' death. Morris was murdered in December 1964 during the arson of his shoe shop.
Morris' case was investigated in the 1960s but no arrests were made. His case was reopened by the FBI in 2007 and remains active.
McDonald and Johnson initially led a group of Syracuse law students in investigating Morris' case and have since branched out to research other cases.
"One of the foundation tenets of our democracy is the principle of equal justice for all," said Cantor. "Yet justice has proved elusive for many touched by violence during the civil rights era.
"The Cold Case Justice Initiative was developed to contribute to the recently re-ignited investigations into unsolved racially motivated murders from that period and participate in activities intended to hold those responsible-individuals, organizations, or institutions-legally and publicly accountable for the crimes. The Cold Case Justice Initiative, which began with a request from family members to reopen an investigation into the 1964 murder of an African American business owner in Louisiana, assists in the leveraging of University and community resources in these efforts.
"Students from law, journalism and other disciplines bring their varied perspectives to the initiative, and key collaborative relationships also have been fostered with federal and state law enforcement, journalists and other institutions."
In 2008, the SU chancellor received a major award from the Carnegie Corporation of New York in recognition of her leadership and in support of the Scholarship in Action vision. In addition, she secured a significant grant from the John and Maureen Hendricks Foundation.
She determined the most effective means to fulfill the spirit of these awards was to combine them to support faculty-led projects that exemplify SU's abiding commitment to bring its vast intellectual resources to bear on challenging questions and problems of our time. And so were born the Chancellor's Leadership Projects.
Funding is from the Carnegie Corporation ($500,000) and the Hendricks Foundation ($1 million) combined with additional support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and an anonymous donor. The university is fundraising to support similar future projects.
"The university's support will allow us to better support the families and more fully concentrate on the cases so that justice will be done," said Paula Johnson.
(Stanley Nelson can be reached at email@example.com)