The Civil Rights Act of 1875 extended the rights of African-Americans, allowing them ‘public accommodation’ and the right to participate in juries. In 1883 the Supreme Court overturned the act with an 8-1 majority, leading to the 1896 Ferguson v. Plessy decision which enshrined the unofficial ‘Jim Crow’ codes into law. Years later, our society is still suffering the effects of these laws, with many black men being tried, not by a jury of their peers, but by all White juries, resulting in convictions for innocent Black men. Recently, with the spread of DNA testing and improved forensics, we are seeing a wave of black males being exonerated and set free after many years in prison. Here are a few cases from the first 15 years of the millennium.
Case # 1 Marvin Lamont Anderson
In 2001, DNA testing exonerated its 99th man, permitting Marvin Anderson to walk free from prison.
As an 18-year-old young man, Marvin was convicted by a jury of Robbery, forcible sodomy, abduction, and two counts of rape on December 14, 1982. He was sentenced to 210 years in the Virginia State Penitentiary. Mr. Anderson spent 15 years in the prison before being released on Lifetime Parole. He then embarked on a long, hard journey to clear his name.
The victim in the case, a young white woman, had been approached by a black man while she was riding her bike. He brutally raped and sodomized her. During the encounter, the suspect told the victim that he ‘had a white girl’ of his own. During the investigation, a police officer singled out Mr. Anderson, as he was the only black man who the officer knew of that was living with a white woman.
Mr. Anderson had no criminal record, so the officers placed a color ‘work I.D.’ of Mr. Anderson’s in a photo array, among the black and white mug shots they used for the photo line up. The victim chose his photo.
At the trial, the victim testified in detail, describing the assault and the perpetrator. The defense offered an alibi for the time of the assault in the testimony of the girlfriend of the defendant, saying that he was with her at the time. An all white Jury convicted him on all counts.
In 1988 John Otis Lincoln came forward, and admitted his involvement at a Habeas Corpus hearing. The judge called him a liar and rejected his claims of guilt. In 1993 Mr. Anderson asked for clemency from the Governor. He was rejected again. In 1994 the Innocence project accepted his case and the court battle stretched out for years ending in 2001. After 15 years in prison and 4 years on parole, Marvin Lamont Anderson was exonerated. He received a monetary settlement, but no one can give him back the years he lost.
Case#2 Glenn Ford
In another astonishing case of unequal justice, 34-year-old Glenn Ford was convicted by an all white jury in the 1983 robbery and murder of Isadore Rozeman, a Shreveport watchmaker, found shot to death behind the jewelry counter of his shop.
Mr. Ford was a native of California who sometimes did yard work for Rozeman, and was convicted by a jury of the murder along with several others, and sentenced to death by electrocution. He spent years on death row in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, from where he filed numerous appeals on his conviction which were denied.
In the year 2000, the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered a hearing. In the hearing, held in 2004, it was revealed that evidence had been withheld from the defense, his lawyers had been inexperienced, and a number of issues were raised pertaining to the evidence. The motion was denied.
In 2012, a writ of Habeas Corpus was filed in the case, and during that time the DA began it’s own reinvestigation of the case. It was revealed that one of the men convicted of the crime along with Mr. Ford had admitted his guilt to an informant. Mr. Ford was released in 2014. He lost 30 years of his life.
Case# 3 George Stinney Jr.
It only took the jury 10 minutes to convict George Stinney. 10 minutes to convict a 95 pound, 14-year-old boy of the brutal murder of two young girls. Betty June Binnaker and Mary Emma Thames were found beaten to death in the town of Alcolu, South Carolina. They had been seen speaking with George and his sister near the Stinney property while on a bike ride to pick flowers. They asked the Stinney children if they knew where to find ‘maypops’. When the young girls never returned, a search party was organized to find them. The girl’s bodies were recovered from a muddy ditch.
Based solely upon the circumstantial evidence that they had been seen with Stinney, he was arrested and charged with the brutal double murder (super negro strength). The Stinney family suffered horribly during this time period, threats of lynching and other assorted violence were leveled at the family. They fled town, fearing for their lives, leaving everything behind that they could not carry. And their son was left alone in a cell for 83 days, waiting for trial.
The terrified child would find no justice in this land. The trial, jury selection, and verdict all came within a day. The jury deliberated for about 10 minutes.
George Stinney Jr was so small on the day of his execution, June 14, 1944, that they had to seat him on phone books in order to properly kill him.
In December 2014, George Stinney Jr was exonerated of the crime of murder. 70 years too late. Like many, there has been no justice for George Stinney.