- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 18, 2007

ANNAPOLIS(AP) — Maryland’s attorney general is considering creating a cold-case unit to investigate unsolved homicides, with a focus on racial crimes dating back to the civil rights era.

“Having a civil rights component to this office affords us the opportunity to look into current and past civil rights violations,” Douglas F. Gansler, who took office last month, told the Baltimore Sun.

Mr. Gansler met Friday with top aides to discuss the idea. The unit would investigate unsolved homicides with modern forensic and DNA techniques, he said.

Such a survey is needed to count feasible cold cases with civil rights implications, said Mr. Gansler, the former state’s attorney for Montgomery County.

“If a lot of these people are still alive, witnesses and perpetrators, and if we have the ability to pursue them, the government has the onus to do so,” he said.

The unit also could investigate desecrations of synagogues or other houses of worship.

A bill before Congress would require the Justice Department and the FBI to create cold-case units dedicated to civil rights.

Mr. Gansler was criticized last year during the Democratic primary by an opponent for pledging to take on crime-fighting initiatives historically left to local state’s attorneys. One of his first efforts after taking office — forming a group of attorneys to tackle gang crimes — was met with resistance from many state’s attorneys, who do not want him to probe gang crimes or prosecute them without the consent of the local jurisdiction.

Mr. Gansler told the Sun he recognized the delicate ground on which he was treading.

“To set up a cold-case squad, we’d have to have a lot of stakeholders, including local and federal authorities, and a concerted effort throughout the state,” he said.

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