Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"This case called out for mercy"

Many -- if not most -- questionable death sentences do not divide evenly or neatly between "guilty" and "not guilty."

Rather, there is often a third category: guilty, but with extenuating circumstances. Or, sometimes, there is flat-out self-defense.

Which leads us to the state of Georgia:

Maid pardoned 60 years after execution

The only woman ever executed in Georgia's electric chair is being granted a posthumous pardon, 60 years after the black maid was put to death for killing a white man she claimed held her in slavery and threatened her life.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has decided to pardon Lena Baker and plans to present a proclamation to her descendants at its August 30 meeting in Atlanta, board spokeswoman Scheree Lipscomb said Monday.

The board did not find Baker innocent of the crime, Lipscomb said. Members instead found the decision to deny her clemency in 1945 "was a grievous error, as this case called out for mercy," Lipscomb said.

Baker was sentenced to die following a 1-day trial before an all-white, all-male jury in Georgia.

"I believe she's somewhere around God's throne and can look down and smile," said Baker's grandnephew, Roosevelt Curry, who has led the family's effort to clear her name.

During her 1-day trial, Baker testified that E.B. Knight, a man she had been hired to care for, held her against her will in a grist mill and threatened to shoot her if she tried to leave. She said she grabbed Knight's gun and shot him when he raised a metal bar to strike her.

After Baker's execution in 1945, Baker's body was buried in an unmarked grave behind a small church where she had been a choir member. In the late 1990s, the congregation marked the grave with a cement slab.

Baker supporters have been gathering at her grave every year since 2001 to mark the date of her execution, and Curry, along with a few dozen surviving family members, hosted a Mother's Day ceremony at the graveside in 2003, the same year he requested the pardon.


Anonymous said...

So a lot of good this "pardon"does this lady....like every other innocent man or woman killed by the backward state of Georgia.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this information, it helped very much. I am doing a project in class about ending the death penalty. Thanks again this helped.