Race, Crime, Law

Race, Crime, and the Law Timeline
Chapters 1-3
1619-A “Dutch Man of War” sells “twenty and odd negars Negroes” to the “Cape merchant” of
the Virginia Company in Jamestown.

1798-Andrew Fede “Slave Abuse” A North Carolina statue declared the killing of a slave to be
a felony, but then added that the statue should not extend “to any person killingany slave in the act of resistance to his lawful owner or master, or any slave dying under moderate correction. (p. 30)
1820-State v. Tackett, a case in which the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed the
conviction of a white man prosecuted for murdering a slave. The conflict between the deceased slave and the defendant stemmed from an illicit sexual relationship between the defendant and the wife of the slave, a free black woman. At trial, the defendant sought to introduce evidence that the slave was “a turbulent maninsolent and impudent to white people.” The judge, however, excluded this testimony and instructed the jury that the case “was to be determined by the same rules and principles of law as if the deceased has been a white man.” The Supreme Court decided that this standard and the evidentiary ruling to which it gave rise were erroneous. (p. 32)
1821-The South Carolina legislature made the willful, malicious, and deliberate killing of a slave
a capital offense. Although several motivations combined to produce this and similar reforms, one of the most important was a desire to protect slave owners’ economic investment in their human property against the depredations of resentful poor whites.

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(p. 31-32)
1829-State v. Mann, perhaps the best known of all the cases relating to slavery and criminal
laws. The defendant, John Mann, leased from an owner a slave named Lydia. During her period of bondage to Mann, Lydia committed what the North Carolina Supreme Court describes as “some small offense, for which the Dfendant undertook to chastise her.” The court does not specify what sort of chastisement was attempted but does indicate that Lydia tried to run away. When she disregarded Mann’s order to stop, he shot and wounded her. Mann was indicted and convicted for assault and battery, a remarkable event given the difficulties that authorities faced in bringing criminal prosecutions against whites for inflicting violence upon blacks. (p. 33)
1840’s- Both the Alabama (Nelson v. State, 1844) and Tennessee (Grandison (a slave) v. State,
1841) Supreme Courts reversed convictions for rape because of the failure of prosecutors to specify in the indictments that the victims were white, even though at the trial the prosecution offered ample proof of this fact as well as the slaves’ guilt. (p. 78)
1842-The Negro Seamen Acts show vividly the extent to which the slave South subjected all
blacks, not just slaves, to racially oppressive criminal laws. These laws provided that any blacks on board a ship in a South Carolina or Louisiana harbor would be imprisoned throughout the period during which the ship remained in harbor. Enacted after discovery of plans for a slave rebellion in South Carolina, these laws were intended to insulate the slave population from the “contagion of liberty” that might be spread by free black seamen. (p. 81)
January 1842-Although the great majority of Northern whites perceived blacks as a racially inferior caste, many also disliked slavery, and even more, resented efforts by white Southerners to spread proslavery mores and practices across the nation. This resentment, allied with abolitionist sentiments, provided the basis for what came to be known as “personal liberty laws,” which gave some degree of protection in the North to free blacks and fugitive slaves. The Supreme Court disagreed, however, ruling in Prigg v. Pennsylvania that under the federal constitution states did not have the authority to regulate slaveowners pursuing their fugitive human property. (p. 83)
1846-In all of the Southern States and in several of the Northern ones, blacks (regardless of
their status as slaves or freedpeople) were barred from testifying against whites. (p. 37)
1850-Souther v. The Commonwealth of Virginia, in Hanover, Virginia, Souther was convicted of
murdering Sam, one of his slaves, during the course of punishing him for drunkenness. Sam was tied to a tree and whipped with switches. When Souther became fatigued with the labour of whipping, he called upon a Negro man of his, and made him cob Sam with a shingle. And after cobbing and whipping, he applied fire to the body of the slave, about his back, belly, and private parts. He then caused him to be washed down with hot water, in which pods of red pepper had been steeped. The Negro was also tied to a log and to the bed post with roped which choked him, and he was kicked and stamped by Souther. This sort of punishment was continued and repeated until the Negro died under its infliction. Sam Souther was sentenced to only five years’ imprisonment for his horrific murder of Sam. (p. 31)
1850-Spencer v. State, The Supreme of Alabama overturned a guilty verdict against a slave
charged with murdering a white man on the grounds that one of his jurors had only a share in an undistributed estate of slaves, whereas state laws required a juror in a case against a slave to be a full owner of at least one slave. (p. 78-79)
1850-Ann v. State, a slave was charged with killing her master’s baby. Immediately following
the baby’s death, the master struck the defendant and threatened to shoot her. A day later, the defendant confessed to two overseers. The state argued that the confession had been properly admitted into evidence because the defendant was no longer imminent danger of violence when she confessed. The Tennessee Supreme Court rejected the state’s argument, holding that, the confession could not be viewed as truly voluntary. (p. 79)
September 18, 1850-Congress and the President enacted a statue, the Fugitive Act of 1850, which created a federal bureaucracy to aid slaveowners in the capture and return of runaway slaves. (p. 83)
June 1855-Celia, a teenager who was pregnant for the third time as a result of the
sexual assaults of her seventy-five-year-old owner. After warning Robert Newsom, a successful farmer, that she would defend herself against any further assaults, Celia killed Newsom when he again tried to rape her. In the ensuing prosecution, a Missouri trial judge, affirmed by the state Supreme Court, refused to allow a jury instruction that the homicide could be excused or extenuated by the fact that Celia was seeking to defend herself. Instead, the trial judge told the jury that Celia should be found guilty of murder if she did, in fact, strike and kill Newsom, even if he “was in the habit of having intercourse with herand went to any other purpose.” After the judge erased the possibility of an excuse founded on self-defense, the jury convicted Celia. The judge sentenced her to death, but delayed the execution until the birth of Celia’s child. After Celia gave birth to a dead baby, she was hanged. (p. 35-36)
1858-A case from North Carolina involving the prosecution of a free black man who was convicted of violating a state law, which forbade blacks from carrying firearms, State v. Jacobs. The defendant appealed his conviction on the grounds that his privilege against self-incrimination has been denied because the trial court had insisted that he make himself available for display to the jury. The North Carolina Supreme Court reversed the conviction, holding that the trial court had wrongly compelled the defendant to furnish evidence against himself. The attorney general of North Carolina argued that, under state law, defendants were required to be present at their trials. The Supreme Court countered that this law could be satisfied without compelling the defendants to stand or sit within view of the jury. (p. 79 (end note))
1859-George (a slave) v. The State of Mississippi, a male slave was convicted and sentenced to death for having had “carnal knowledge of a female slave, under ten years of age.” His conviction was overturned on appeal. Asserting that slaves have no rights under the common law, Judge Williams L. Harris declared that courts must look to legislation alone to discover what rights a slave might have. Since no statue specifically protected slave girls or women from rape, no laws was violated by inflicting sexual violence upon them. “We are satisfied,” Harris declared, “that there is no act which embraces either the attempted or actual commission of a rape by a slave on a female slave. (p. 34-35)
1860-Oliver v. State, the Mississippi Supreme Court similarly condoned a master’s killing of his slave to achieve submission. Reversing the manslaughter conviction of a master who had killed his slave during a dispute over the slave’s method of performed a chore, the court remarked that if a slave resists, “then the master may use just such force as may be requisite to reduce his slave to obedience, even to the death of the slave, if that becomes necessaryto maintain his lawful authority. (p.30)
1862-1864-In 1862, two years into Civil War, U.S. Senator Charles Sumner proposed a law barring racial discrimination against black witnesses in federal court. He argued, in part, that this reform would allow loyal blacks testify against disloyal whites for purposes of identifying those who had participated in rebellion against the Union. Sumner’s proposal was rejected on the grounds that it would disturb the traditional and proper relationship between states and the federal government. Only after three defeats and two years of agitation was Sumner able finally in 1864 to push through Congress a bill which enabled blacks to testify in all federal courts. (p. 38)
January 1, 1863-The Emancipation Proclamation, issued on the 22ND day of September, A.D. 1862,” goes into effect.

November 25, 1865-The Mississippi Black Code, for instance, made it a criminal offense for blacks to make “insulting gestures” or to function as ministers of the Gospel without a license from some regularly organized (white) church. (p. 85)
December 6, 1865-The 13TH Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. “Neither Slavery, nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall exist within the U.S., or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
1866-The Civil Rights of 1866 stipulates that all citizens “of every race and color, without regards to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitudeshall be subject to like punishment, pains, and penalties.” (p. 85)
1866-Alabama made a criminal of “any person who, having no visible means of support, or being dependent on his labor, lives without employment. (p. 86)
July 9, 1868-The 14TH Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. “No State shall make or enforce any law, which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the U.S.; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
February 3, 1870-The 15th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. “The right of citizens of the U.S. to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous conditions of servitude.”
1872-United States v. Cruikshank, which stemmed from “the bloodiest single act of carnage in all of Reconstruction.” In Colfax, Louisiana, during and after a battle between contending political factions, opponents of Reconstruction killed about 280 blacks, many of who were unarmed or in the process of surrendering. Pursuant to the Enforcement Act of 1870, the federal government indicted 97 people, although it succeeded in bringing to trial only 9 and convicting only 3. These 3 convicted of depriving blacks of various rights assertedly protected by the federal constitution. The Supreme Court voided their convictions on variety of grounds, including the failure of the prosecution to charge the defendant with acts punishable by federal authority. (p. 50)
1893-“Have American Negroes Too Much Liberty?” Charles Henry Smith asked. Yes, he replied, because of their racial penchant for scurrilous crimes, especially rape. The idea that blacks are racially predisposed toward criminality, or at least certain sorts of crime, continues to shadow discussions of race relations and crime. It helps to explain the common use of the term “black crime” long after the disappearance of references to “Jewish crime” or “Italian crime.” (p. 13)
1899-Dorsey v. The State, arose from the prosecution of a black man convicted of attempting to rape a white woman. On appeal, the defendant law, the defendant’s race could be taken into account to nullify his assertion that he had only been attempting to obtain the complainant’s consent to sexual intercourse. Affirming the conviction, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that race may properly be considered “to rebut any presumption that might otherwise, arise in favor of the accused that his intention was to obtain the consent of female.” (p.89)
1906-Hodges v. United States, Hodges stemmed from the federal prosecution of a mob of whites in eastern Arkansas who, in 1903, ousted blacks from jobs at a lumber mill by threatening to kill them. The whites were indicted for violating a federal statue, which made it a crime for two or more persons to conspire “to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States. The government alleged that the defendants had violated a federal statue, which gave to all persons “the same rightto make and enforce contractsas is enjoyed by white citizens.” The government further argued that the constitutional authority for this statutory grant was the 13TH Amendment to the Constitution. In Hodges, the court made clear that, in its view, the 13TH Amendment did not empower the federal government to respond to broadly to “the war of race.” (p. 51-52)
1907-State v. Petit, a Louisiana case in which a black man was charged with burglary and intent to rape a white woman. (p. 88)
August 1908-In Springfield, Illinois, a white mob frustrated by its inability to lynch two Negroes charged with rape instead killed two other blacks who were unlucky enough to cross its path. The mob also injured scores of people and burned and looted black-owned homes and businesses. (p. 47)
1910-Congress passed the White Slave Traffic Act, popularly known as the Mann Act (after its sponsor Representative James R. Mann of Illinois). The Mann Act made it a felony under federal law to transport knowingly any woman or girl across state lines for prostitution “or any other immoral purpose.” According to its sponsors, the legislation was aimed at eradicating “the business of securing white women and girls and of selling them outright, or of exploiting them for immoral purposes.” (p. 56)
July 10, 1910- A front-page cartoon in the Chicago Defender reflected the feelings of man
blacks entitled “The Strong Arm of the American Law,” the cartoon pictures Sheriff Uncle Sam tossing a promoter of prizefighting into a paddy wagon while 3 men clearly marked as lynchers run away undisturbed. (p. 58)
1911-Alonzo Bailey was convicted and sentenced to 136 days of hard labor under Alabama’s false pretenses statue. After approximately a month into a yearlong contract, Bailey quit his job as a field hand and failed to repay $15.00 advance he has received from his employer. A local prosecutor contended that this conduct violated Alabama’s criminal code, which provided that a prima facie case of fraud could be shown by a breach of contract along with failure to repay advance given by employer. The statue further provided that a prima facie violation could not be rebutted by a defendant’s own testimony. A number of influential persons, including Booker T. Washington, selected Bailey’s case as a vehicle for challenging the constitutionality of this statue. They secretly aided him by providing funds for a first-rate legal defense and eliciting intervention by the U.S. Justice Department. In Bailey v. Alabama, the Supreme Court invalidated Bailey’s conviction, ruling that the Alabama statue violated the 13TH Amendment’s prohibition against involuntary servitude and a federal antipeonage statue. (p. 93)
July 30, 1912-A federal statue enacted in 1912 that prohibited the interstate transportation of
prizefight films. The specific purpose of this ban was to prevent publicizing the exploits of
Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight-boxing champion. (p. 57-58)
1914-The first federal narcotics law, the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914. The Harrison Act won
passage easily, facilitated by testimony that cocaine use increased Negroes’ penchant for
violent crime, particularly the commission of rape upon white women. (p. 57-58)
1915-The principal Supreme Court case governing federal habeas corpus procedures, Frank v.

Mangum, was a monument to bigotry in the administration of criminal law. In May 1913,
in Atlanta, Georgia, Leo M. Frank, a (white) Jew, was convicted of murdering Mary
Phagan, a (white) Christian who worked in the factory he owned and managed. The trial
was tainted by blatant anti-Semitism and took place in an environment that was so close
to mod action that the trial judge advised the defendant and his counsel to refrain from
attending court when the jury rendered its verdict; the judge feared that they would
immediately be hurt if the verdict proved displeasing to the crowd. Frank was convicted
and sentenced to death. Subsequently, the Supreme Court of the U.S. decided to review
a lower court’s rejection of his plea for federal habeas corpus relief. Frank argued that he
has been deprived of due process of law by mod domination of his trial. The Supreme
Court ruled against him on the grounds that Frank has been given a fair opportunity to
present his objections to the state’s appellate courts and that their conclusions were
entitled to great deference from the federal courts. Although Frank later obtained a
commutation of the death sentence from Georgia’s governor, a mod, enraged by the
governor’s action, overpowered Frank’s jailers and lynched him. (p. 98)
1920-Barker v. State, the court reversed the initial convictions on the grounds that jurors has
failed to specify whether they had found defendants guilty of the first as opposed to
second degree murder. (p. 97)
1920-Ware v. State, when members of that group were retried, reconvicted, and resentenced
to death, the Arkansas Supreme Court again reversed, this time on grounds that the trial
judge had wrongly prevented the defense from attempting to prove unconstitutional racial
discrimination in the jury selection. (p. 97)
1922-A bill proposed by Representative Leonidas Dyer of Missouri “to assure to persons within
the jurisdiction of every State the equal protection of the laws, and to punish the crime of
lynching. (p. 55)
1923-Ware v. State, The Arkansas Supreme Court ordered this group of defendants released
from prison on the grounds that the state has excessively delayed retrial. (p. 97)
1923-Moore v. Dempsey represented a major triumph for the NAACP. It also marked a major
advance in the federal constitutionalization of state criminal procedures and the
development of federal habeas corpus relief. (p. 99)
March 25, 1931-Officials in Scottsboro, Alabama, charged nine black youngsters ranging
in age from thirteen to twenty with raping two white women. They were accused of
raping Victoria Price and Daisy Bates on board a freight train, after ejecting white men
from the car in which the women were riding as hoboes. The evidence against the nine
consisted principally of the women’s allegations. One of the women, Daisy Bates, later
recanted and testified for the defendants. The other, Victoria Price, never recanted but
told such contradictory and implausible versions of her alleged rape that it is virtually
certain that she lied materially about the entire episode. The flimsiness of the
prosecution’s case led one judge to annul the conviction of one of the Scottsboro boys
and prompted several Alabama’s leading newspapers to oppose the state’s plans to
execute the defendants. Despite the opposition over the course of the decade,
prosecutors tried the Scottsboro Boys on three occasions, each time obtaining
convictions. Juries sentenced the defendants to death on several occasions, although in
recognition of the weakness of the prosecution’s case, one jury sentenced one defendant
to “only” 75 years in prison as opposed to execution. (p. 100)
1932-Powell v. Alabama, challenged the failure of the state to provide effective assistance of
counsel even though it sought to execute the defendants. Powell is a major landmark
which established the idea of federal constitutional law that states have an affirmative
obligation to provide criminal defendants with the rudiments of effective representation.

(p. 102-103)
1935-Norris v. Alabama involved the state’s purposeful exclusion of blacks from jury service.

(p. 102 & 103-104)
1936-Brown v. Mississippi marks another miscarriage of justice that was prevented from
degenerating into total, irredeemable farce by Supreme Court intervention. On April 4,
1934, in Kemper County, Mississippi, Ed Brown, Arthur Ellington, and Henry Shields,
three black farmhands, were indicted for murdering Raymond Stewart, a white farmer.
Within two days they had all been tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. The
evidence suggesting their guilt were confessions that had been extracted from them by
torture. Ellington was severely whipped and hung by a rope to the limb of a tree. Brown
and Stewart were beaten with leather straps with buckles attached. In court the
defendants repudiated their confessions. When Ellington did so, rope marks were still
plainly visible on his neck. The police admitted beating them. Asked how severely he
has whipped Ellington, one deputy sheriff replied, “Not too much for a Negro; not as
much as I would have done if it were left to me.” Although the jury was instructed that
they could take this evidence into account in determining whether to credit the
defendants’ confessions, it nonetheless rendered guilty verdicts. The Supreme Court of
Mississippi upheld the convictions. With respect to the coerced confessions, the court
rested its affirmance on two grounds, one procedural, the other substantive. First, the
court concluded that the trial judge was under no duty to question the admissibility of
confessions after they had properly been examined at a preliminary hearing and in the
absence of any subsequent challenge by defense counsel. Second, as a substantive
matter, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded that, although the 5TH Amendment to
the U.S. Constitution gave individuals a right against compulsory self-incrimination in
federal trials, it provided individuals with no such right in state trials. Thus, according to
the Mississippi Court, even if the defendants’ confessions has been coerced, admitting it
into evidence did not violate the federal constitution since this prosecution took place in a
state as opposed to federal forum. (p. 104-105)
1945-Screws v. United States, Petitioner Claude Screws was sheriff of Baker County,
Georgia. He enlisted the assistance of petitioner Jones, a policeman, and petitioner
Kelley, a special deputy, in arresting Robert Hall. Hall, a young Negro about thirty years
of age, was handcuffed and taken by car to the courthouse. As Hall alighted from the
carthe three petitioners began beating him with their fights and with a solid-bar
blackjack about eight inches long and weighting two pounds. They claimed Hall had
reached for a gun and had used insulting language as he alighted from the car. But after
Hall, still handcuffed, had been knocked to the ground they continued to beat him from
fifteen to thirty minutes until he was unconscious. Hall was then dragged feet-first
through the courthouse yard into the jail and thrown upon the floor dying. An ambulance
was called and Hall was removed to a hospital where he died within the hourThere was
evidence that Screws held a grudge against Hall and had threatened to “get” him. After
the killing, state authorities brought no charges against Screws and his accomplices.

After four months of state inaction, the federal government intervened, charging Screws
et al. with willfully depriving Hall of, among other things, the right to be free of deprivation
of life without the due process of law. The government did not charge that the
defendants had mistreated Hall on a racial basis. Rather, the government presented the
prosecution as a simple police brutality case, albeit one with obvious racial overtones. A
jury convicted the defendants, who were then sentenced by the trial judge to a $1,000.00
fine and a three-year prison term. (p. 52-53)
1953-McQuirter v. State which involved the conviction in Alabama of a black man for “an
attempt to commit an assault with intent to rape.” According to the prosecution, the
defendant followed a woman down a street, came within two or three feet of her, leaned
on a stop sign across the street from her home, and, after his arrest confided to a police
officer that he intended to “get him a white woman that night.” The defendant, on the
other hand, denied following the complainant or making any gesture toward her. He
denied making any confession of a desire to rape or have sex with a white woman and
testified that he had never before been arrested. (p. 90)
1954-Brown v. Board of Education invalidating de jure segregation in public schools. (p. 63)
August 1955- September 23, 1955-Emmett “Bobo” Till, a fifteen year old boy who has been
raised in Chicago, was sent to vacation with relatives in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.

Unaware of the racial etiquette of the Jim Crow South, Till answered “yeah” and “naw” to
white men instead of the expected “yassah” and “nawsah.” He also did two other things
that violated the Deep South’s prevailing racial customs. First, he kept the photograph of
a white girlfriend from Chicago in his wallet and boasted of having sex with her. Second,
acting on a dare, he went into a store in Money, Mississippi, and asked the cashiera
young white married womanfor a date and whistled at her. A few days after the
incident in the store, the woman’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his brother-in-law, J.W.

Milam, went to the cabin where Till was staying under the care of his elderly uncle,
Moses Wright. Wright testified that he pleaded with Bryant and Milam to spare Till, that
he told them that he had himself chastised the boy, and further that Till “ain’t got good
sense. He was raised up yonder. He didn’t know what he was doing.” The entreaties,
however, were to no avail. Bryant and Milam said that they initially planned only to beat
Till. They decided to kill him when he failed to beg for mercy or show remorse and
continued to boast of his sexual intimacies with white girls in Chicago. After the both
pistol-whipped Till, Milam shot him once in the head. Then Bryant and Milam threw him
into the Tallahatchie River with a heavy fan tied around his neck to weigh him down.
When Till’s body was discovered and Bryant and Milam were identified as his likely
killers, state politicians, leading editorialists, and local police condemned the murder.
Governor Hugh White urged a “vigorous prosecution” and claimed that “Mississippi
deplores such conduct.” The Jackson Daily News termed the slaying “a brutal senseless
crimeone which merits not one iota of sympathy for the killers.” Sheriff Harold
Clarenbce Strider arrested Bryant and Milam, a prosecutor sought an indictment, and a
local grand jury complied with the request, prompting a local black newspaper to praise
“white men willing to take this step against other white men for a crime against a Negro.”
At trial, Emmett Till’s mother positively identified her son’s body and his uncle,
overcoming tremendous fear, positively identified Bryant and Milam. The prosecutor
contended that although Till may have deserved a whipping, he was “entitled to his life.”
On September 23, 1955, after an hour and seven minutes of deliberation, the jury
acquitted the defendants. (p. 60-61 ; 62)
1961-E.H. Hurst, a white Mississippi state representative, shot and killed Herbert Lee because
the latter, a black resident of Amite County, sought to register potential Negro voters. A
coroner’s jury accepted Hurst’s claim that he had killed Lee in self-defense, a claim
initially corroborated by a black eyewitness, Louis Allen. (p. 63)
1962-Sheriff Cull Cambell beat with a walking stick C.B. King, an attorney who visited a jail
near Albany, Georgia, to check on the condition of civil rights protesters. Admitting that
he has “knocked the hell” out of King, the sheriff justified his conduct declaring: “I’m a
white man and he’s a damn Nigger.” (p. 63)
1963-Byron De La Beckwith, an outspoken racist, killed Medgar Evers, field secretary of the
Mississippi NAACP, right outside of his home. (p. 63)
July 2, 1964-The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed.

1964-Frustrated by widespread apathy and the stubborn resilience of the Jim Crow system,
activists decided that they would have to find a provocative way to highlight it’s
oppressive racial practices. They settled upon the idea of sending scores of white
reformers into the Deep South. They believed that white activists would better attract the
attention of other whites, including white shapers of opinion and policy. (p. 64)
1966-James Baldwin wrote “to respect the law in the context in which the Negro finds himself is
simply to surrenderself-respect,” and why being a “crazy,” law-breaking “bad nigger”
came to be associated with laudable rebelliousness. (p.26)
January 1966-In Mississippi, Klansman killed Vernon Dahmer, an NAACP official, by
firebombing his home. State prosecutors succeeded in obtaining convictions against four
of the perpetrators, but others escaped convictions in two separate trials because of
deadlock juries that appear to have been hamstrung by a small number of white jurors
who refused to vote to convict despite overwhelming evidence of guilt. (p. 66-67)
1966-Frustrated by what they perceived as a paucity of legal authority to respond adequately to
racially motivated violence, officials of the Johnson administration proposed legislation
aimed at enlarging federal jurisdiction. This legislation, codified in the U.S. Criminal Code
as Section 245, was one of the last pieces of federal civil rights legislation during the
Second Reconstruction. (p. 67)
April 4, 1968-The murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (p. 68)
1976-Rizzo v. Goode- Rizzo arose from litigation initiated by various individuals and community
groups sought to impose federal judicial restraints on the Philadelphia Police Department.

The plaintiffs alleged that certain police officers were racially biased, that these officers habitually violated the rights of Negroes and other racial minorities, that these racist misdeeds were will know to police supervisors, and that nothing substantial had been done to deter the continuation of this well-documented misconduct. The plaintiffs requested the appointment of a receiver for the police department. The district court judge declined to impose upon the police department an outside agency authorized to supervise its reformation. Instead, he declared that the police department would maintain the authority to supervise itself. Although a court of appeals affirmed the district court’s decision, the Supreme Court disapproved of even this minimal amount of federal judicial oversight. In an opinion authored by Justice Rehnquist, the Supreme Court held the district judge’s order represented “an unwarranted intrusion by the federal judiciary into the discretionary authority committed to the defendant police authorities by state and local law. (p. 121-123)
April 1980-In Cattanooga, Tennessee, Three Klansmen, on their way to burn crosses in a
predominantly black neighborhood, shot and wounded five elderly black women. The
Klansmen were acquitted of all criminal charges by a jury in state court but forced to pay
damages to their victims in a subsequent federal civil suit. No federal criminal prosecution was brought because the Justice Department concluded that the victims’ activities at the time of the shootings (standing upon a public sidewalk and watering a plant on privately owned property) did not fall within the spectrum of activities defined by Section 245. (p. 68)
Fall of 1980-In Conroe, Texas, Clarence Brandley, a black man, was accused of murdering
Cheryl Dee Fergeson, a white student at the high school at which he managed the janitorial services. Some circumstantial evidence supported Brandley as a suspect: the absence of a corroborated alibi; statements by co-workers that he had had the opportunity to commit the crime and had acted somewhat suspiciously around the time the murder was perpetrated; the fact that at the time of the murder Brandley was on probation for possessing a sawed-off shotgun he had allegedly used in an effort to coerce a woman into having sex with him. After 6 years, a Texas district court judge granted Brandley’s request for corpus relief, ruling that the state’s investigation was “so impermissibly suggestive that false testimony was created, thereby denying Brandley of due process of law and a fundamentally fair trial.” The judge also found that “the color of Clarence Brandley’s skin was a substantial factor which pervaded all aspects of the State’s capital prosecution against him, and was an impermissible factor which significantly influenced the investigation, trial, and post-trial proceedings of Brandley’s case. (p. 125-127)
1983-City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, a federal civil rights suit bought by a twenty-four-year-old
black man. Adolph Lyons was pulled over by two LAPD Officers for burned out taillights. The two officers assaulted and beat Lyons until he blacked out. He regained consciousness and was lying face down on the ground choking and gasping for air, spitting out blood and dirt. He had urinated and defecated. He was issued a traffic citation and released. The district court concluded that the treatment accorded to Lyons violated his constitutional rights and that authorizing police to apply chokeholds to civilians in situations in which the police faced serious threat to themselves was “unconscionable.” The court therefore enjoined the LAPD from using chokeholds under circumstances posing no serious threat to officers. After the court of appeals agreed with the district courts, the Supreme Court, in an opinion authored by Justice Byron White, held that the federal courts lacked power to offer injunctive relief. Dissenting, Justice Thurgood Marshall argued that precedent did not at all dictate the Court’s conclusion, that the majority had actually strained precedent to reach the conclusions it desired, and that simply allowing suits for money damages was a wholly inadequate way to protect federal rights. Ridiculing the Court, Justice Marshall noted that under Lyons “the federal judicial power is now limited to levying a toll” for a widespread, systematic violations of federal norms. (p. 123-125)
November 1987-Tawana Brawley, a black teenager who alleged that she had been
abducted and raped by six white men (several of whom were, she claimed, police officers). A New York State grand jury concluded on the basis of overwhelming evidence, that Brawley’s allegation were groundless. (p 7-8)
r1992-Michael L. Radelet, Hugo Adam Bedau, and Constance E. Putnam in their careful study,
In Spite of Innocence: Erroneous Convictions in Capital Cases. This study unearths 416 instances between 1900 and 1991 in which it appears likely that erroneous convictions were obtained in prosecutions for which death sentences constituted a potential punishment. Of the 416, 188 involved black defendants. (p. 125)


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