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July 26, 2007

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I'm taking a shot at this off the cuff without benefit of research, so I could very well be wrong, but here goes - prosecution of the FBI agents is likely barred by a statute of limitations.

The crime was committed in 1965, when the FBI agents collaborated in perjury, obstruction of justice, or some other similar event. The traditional statute of limitations has almost certainly run on such things.

Now, I think it's not unusual to have an exception where the statute does not run during times while the crime is unknown or the person committing the crime is unknown. Basically, the clock starts running from the point the state knew or should have known of the crime. Problem is - the crime was known, at least to the FBI, since the story suggests that the FBI had memos that indicated they knew the witnesses who fingered the plaintiffs were lying.

An argument can be made, I think, that the statute should have kept tolling due to the FBI concealing the information from the state and the state could still prosecute, or that the crime was still ongoing, due to the victims' continued wrongful incarceration. But I think the problem of the information being in possession of the FBI is going to make it hard to successfully argue that the clock hasn't already run.

That's before you take into account whether or not the FBI agents are still alive or healthy enough to stand trial, and whether you still had enough evidence to convict any such agent beyond a reasonable doubt, especially when they start pointing fingers at each other (or more likely, someone who's since passed away - it's amazing how often criminal conspiracies are all the fault of the one guy who's not in the courtroom.)

It'd be nice if they could be prosecuted, but the sad truth is it may not be legal, and almost certainly isn't logistically possible even if it is.

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