FBI examines civil rights case

NEWTON, Ga. -- FBI agents have requested and received documents connected to the man who some believe shot and killed Shirley Sherrod's father in rural Baker County in 1965, court officials said Friday.

While Sherrod has been the focus of media attention following her dismissal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the subsequent apology from President Barack Obama, the death of her father when she was 17 has been has been discussed but not prominently.

But the shot fired the night of March 15, 1965, has begun to reverberate again in Baker County after an FBI agent requested documents Friday connected to the only man charged in Hosie Miller's death, Cal Hall.

According to Baker County Probate Court officials, the agent requested the death certificate of Hall, who was also known as C.A. Hall, Jr. Hall died in 1976.

Documents obtained through a Georgia Open Records Act request Friday show that Hall was charged at least three different times in connection with Miller's killing and each time the grand jury declined to prosecute.

Grace Miller, Hosie Miller's wife and Sherrod's mother, said Friday that she didn't know if the FBI had opened an investigation into her husband's killing.

"I hadn't heard that but, I think it would be a good thing if they did," Miller said. "But, then again, it won't bring him back and that was a long time ago."

Miller, who said that she and Hall were distantly related, never made any attempts to contact the family before his death in 1976.

According to the documents obtained Friday, Grace Miller and her brother-in-law, Walter Miller, tried at least three times to get Hall tried.

On the night of the shooting, Grace Miller swore out a warrant against Hall for assault with intent of murder. Despite the fact that Hosie Miller had since died, that charge went before a grand jury on Oct. 27, 1965 and was dismissed.

On March 24, 1965, the day before Hosie Miller succumbed to his wounds, Walter Miller swore out a murder warrant before James Holt, a justice of the peace, for Hall. That warrant would be presented as an undated special presentment before the grand jury and was also dismissed.

Finally, on Jan. 17, 1966, Walter Miller again tried to bring murder charges against Hall but was unsuccessful.

Eight days later, on Jan. 25, 1966, Grace Miller, with the assistance of famed civil rights attorney C.B. King, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Hall alleging that Hall shot Miller in the chest while in Miller's cow pasture off Route 2 in Newton on March 15, 1965. According to court documents Miller was seeking $330,00 to recover present and future lost wages, medical and funeral costs.

In his answer to Grace Miller's original complaint, Hall's attorney stated "the Defendant says that he is not indebted to the Plaintiff for any sum or amount for the reason that the killing by him of Plaintiff's husband was in self-defense."

Despite King's efforts to have the Baker County Board of Jury Commissioners redraw the jury lists after he said that the jury panel was comprised of a disproportionate number of white jurors given the fact during the 1960's census the majority of Baker County's 2,000-plus residents were black, Judge Emeritus Carl E. Crow went forward with the proceeding and on Sept.12, 1966, the jury found in favor of Hall.