From 1979 to 1981, 29 black children and young adults were mysteriously killed in Atlanta, Georgia. The press coverage grew from a trickle in the early years to a flood in February, 1982, when freelance photographer Wayne Williams was convicted of two killings and later linked to 22 others. Unfortunately, media coverage ended with the conviction since it now appears that the Ku Klux Klan may well have been involved in the slayings.
According to sources, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) file containing crucial information about the possible role of the KKK was not released and was subsequently destroyed.
Included in the file were dozens of interviews in and outside of Georgia, volumes of court documents, FBI files, depositions, and a tape of telephone conversations between a GBI informant and KKK members. In one of these exchanges, a Klan member answered affirmatively when asked if he was going to “go find you another kid.”
The evidence since the trial reveals a poorly executed investigation, compounded by trivial rivalries among various agencies, incompetent agents and officers, and the deliberate suppression and destruction of valuable evidence.
Attorneys for Williams plan to appeal contending that his defense team was denied access to testimony that would clear him; they also suggest that some witnesses for the prosecution were aided in concealing their criminal background or gave testimony that clearly contradicted their original statements to the police.
Many of the problems of the investigation were attributed to the fact that Atlanta sits in four counties, hence jurisdictional conflicts were to blame for lack of communication and cooperation among investigators. However, these administrative issues cannot be blamed for the disruption of evidence, the dismissal of possibly critical information, and the overall negligence that characterized this case.
Parents of 14 of the victims have asked the Justice Department to reopen the case; however, despite the extraordinary disclosures since the trial, Attorney General Edwin Meese said, in March, 1987, he won’t reopen the probe “until I hear some basis for reopening it.”
SPIN, September 1986, “A Question of Justice,” by Barry Michael Cooper and Robert Keating, pp56+; October 1986, “Atlanta, Who Murdered Your Children?,” by Robert Keating, pp 70+; USA TODAY, 3/12/87, “Victims’ kin want Atlanta case reopened,” p 3A.