Moore v. Franklin County

CRRJ conducted extensive research of state and federal records to determine if there were any avenues to pursue other wrongdoers, particularly the public officials of Franklin County.  On August 5, 2008, Thomas Moore and Thelma Collins, Henry Dee’s sister, filed a civil action against Franklin County.  CRRJ’s research suggested that the Klan met, planned and carried out crimes in complicity with Franklin County law enforcerment who were either Klansmen themselves or sympathizers, and without whose active cooperation the more hands-on perpetrators could not have escaped justice for over four decades.  In November 2008 former Highway Patrol investigator Donald Butler told the Jackson Clarion Ledger that Sheriff Hutto shared little information with the patrol or the FBI: “They thought the more they could keep away from us, the better off they were.” Butler further noted that Hutto was “sympathetic to the Klan.”

Based on this information, the complaint contained five claims against Franklin County. First, it alleged that the policies, practices and omissions of the County deprived Dee and Moore of the equal benefits of the law in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a).  Second, it alleged that Sheriff Hutto’s unconstitutional policies and practices of protecting the Klan from criminal investigation and prosecution constituted the official policy, custom, and practice of Franklin County, all in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The complaint further alleged that Franklin County officials were: protecting the Klan from criminal prosecution for their violent acts; depriving African-Americans of public protection in cases of racial violence perpetrated by whites; failing to train law enforcement officers in how to enforce the law equally; and covering up crimes of racial violence from other police agencies.  Third, the complaint alleged that Franklin County conspired with the Klan to deprive Dee and Moore of their constitutionally protected rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3).  Finally, the complaint alleged that the actions of Franklin County deprived the plaintiffs of their constitutional right to access the courts.

Although all the claims are based on conduct taking place in 1964, the applicable statute of limitations for these claims was tolled until 2007, when the facts pointing to the County’s involvement were discovered.  Defendant Franklin County asserted that these claims were time-barred by the doctrine of laches and the three year statutes of limitation.  Defendant’s  motion to dismiss on these grounds was denied on June 30, 2009. The district court ruled that the facts in the complaint supported plaintiffs’ theories that the cause of action accrued later than 1964, and the defendants’ fraudulent concealment tolled the limitations period. The defendants subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, and all parties prepared for trial until the June 2010 settlement was reached.