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Protecting Civil Rights: Memphis Agent Seeks Justice for Victims

Special Agent Tracey Harris investigates civil rights cases at the FBI’s Memphis Field Office.


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Mollie Halpern: The FBI is the lead agency for enforcing federal civil rights laws. Special Agent Tracey Harris investigates civil rights cases at the FBI’s Memphis Field Office.

Tracey Harris: My first case here involved a Memphis police officer who raped a 12-year old child in a squad car while he was on duty. And, after that case, it just took on a whole new meaning for me and I was eager and very, very passionate about bringing people like that to justice.

Halpern: The FBI’s top four civil rights priorities include: hate crime, human trafficking, Color of Law and Freedom of Access to Clinics offenses.

Tracey Harris: These are people who do not generally have a voice. And, as an investigator you become that voice for them. You become their advocates, you become their cheerleaders and you have to champion their cause.

Halpern: The FBI works closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee, one of the country’s leading civil rights prosecutors.

Edward L. Stanton: The prosecutors in this office could not do what we do without the very able assistance of our partners from the FBI. The professionalism between the two groups—it’s a special bond. And, I think, that’s made a tremendous amount of difference in cases such as the Mickey Wright case.

Halpern: Mickey Wright, a Memphis code enforcement officer, went missing in April 2001. That same month he visited this property—an auto shop a man named Dale Mardis owned at the time. Wright’s identification badge and other personal items were found in a ditch days and days after his disappearance. But, his body was never found.

Jonathan Skrmetti: There was no forensic evidence so it was a really difficult case to make.

Halpern: The Investigation showed that Mardis shot Wright after being issued this courtesy citation from him. Mardis pled guilty to the racially motivated killing of Officer Wright and admitted to burning his body. He also pled guilty to murdering a second man in an unrelated case.

Stephen C. Parker: We put this in front of the jury and we showed the public that Memphis and west Tennessee doesn’t tolerate this and that this is the public opinion here.

Halpern: In July 2011, Mardis was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for each murder.

For more information about the FBI and civil rights visit www.fbi.gov.

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