Here’s a little piece of nasty history I wasn’t aware of…
U.S. state pardoning black woman executed in 1945
Tue Aug 16, 2005 11:13 AM ET
ATLANTA (Reuters) – A black woman executed in 1945 for the murder of a white man she claimed held her as a slave and threatened to kill her if she left will receive a pardon, officials in Georgia said on Tuesday.
Georgia’s Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to grant the rare posthumous pardon to Lena Baker, who worked as a maid for Ernest Knight, after reviewing her case, which has been described by some historians as a legal lynching.
She was the only woman to die in the southern state’s electric chair.
“This was a case that cried out for mercy,” said Garland Hunt, a board member. Hunt said Baker should have been convicted of involuntary manslaughter and that the state made a “grievous error” when it did not commute her sentence.
An all-white jury sentenced Baker for killing Knight in 1944 in rural southwest Georgia, despite hearing testimony from Baker that the 67-year-old had held her against her will and tried to rape her.
Baker, 44, claimed she grabbed Knight’s gun and shot him in the head as she resisted his advances. Neighbors, however, had told authorities that the two often drank together and had a consensual sexual relationship.
Baker was put to death in Georgia’s electric chair on March 5, 1945, after the then-segregated state’s pardons board refused to grant clemency.
The state plans to make her pardon official in a proclamation at a ceremony on August 30 in Atlanta. Some of Baker’s descendants, who had requested the pardon, will attend, Hunt said.