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FBI reexamines '46 lynchings by white mob

Rights activists press witnesses to speak up

ATLANTA -- Nearly 60 years after a white mob lynched two black couples on a summer afternoon and got away with it, the FBI is taking another look at the case.

FBI agent Stephen Emmett said the case is being reviewed ''to ensure that any recent technology or techniques could be used to enhance the prior investigation." He would not elaborate and said a decision on whether to actually reopen the investigation has not yet been made.

The bureau refused to say why it had taken a renewed interest in the 1946 case.

Civil rights activists have pressed witnesses to come forward and break the silence about the case, which they say is the nation's last unsolved public lynching.

''The African-American community in Walton County told me years ago [that] if we're going to get justice, it has to come from the federal government," said state Representative Tyrone Brooks, president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials. ''Our hope is that the federal government will take this case and move it to a federal jury."

The Associated Press learned about the renewed federal interest when the FBI recently denied a 13-month-old request by the news organization to see the bureau's 3,770-page case file on the lynchings. The FBI rejected the request, saying the release of the file could interfere with a pending investigation.

''FBI headquarters and the Department of Justice asked us to take another look at the case," said Agent Steve Lazarus, a spokesman with the FBI's Atlanta office.

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