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A Scottsboro Case in Mississippi

A Scottsboro Case in Mississippi: The Supreme Court and Brown v. Mississippi

Richard C. Cortner
Copyright Date: 1986
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  • Book Info
    A Scottsboro Case in Mississippi
    Book Description:

    This absorbing book is a systematic analysis of the litigation inBrown v. Mississippi, in which the Supreme Court made a pathbreaking decision in 1936 showing the unconstitutionality of coerced confessions. The case exonerated Ed Brown, Henry Shields, and Arthur (Yank) Ellington, three black sharecroppers who had confessed under torture to the murder of a white planter. This case, similar to the notorious "Scottsboro" case in Alabama, paved the way for the controversial MIRANDA decision thirty years later.

    This book presents a dramatic story of both tragedy and triumph, one in which human nature is revealed at its best and at its worst, with courage, decency, and self-sacrifice contrasting sharply with bigotry, brutality, and indifference.

    Ultimately, however,A "Scottsboro" Case in Mississippiis an account of how the Supreme Court came to make a precedent-setting decision enhancing the protection of liberty under the Constitution.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-907-7
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 A Murder In Bloody Kemper
    (pp. 3-14)

    In March 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had only a year previously assured the nation that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” in the face of the economic devastation of the Depression. Despite the inauguration of the New Deal, the hand of the Depression still lay very heavily upon the nation, and especially was this so in the agricultural South, where economic survival for sharecroppers and tenant farmers was difficult enough in normal times. After a tour of the South in the mid-1930s, Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace was deeply shocked by what he had seen,...

  5. 2 “Not Too Much For a Negro”: The Trial of the Kemper County Trio
    (pp. 15-32)

    The trial of Ed Brown, Henry Shields, and Yank Ellington began at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, 5 April 1934.¹ Representing the state, District Attorney John Stennis called Burt Stuart, the brother of the slain Raymond Stuart, who presented to the jury a drawing of the layout of his brother’s house. Testifying next was William Adams, one of those who discovered Raymond Stuart’s body on 30 March. Stuart, Adams said, was still alive when he found him but was “breathing hard and seemed to be unconscious.” Near the body was a tool chest, Adams said, “and it was open and a...

  6. 3 John Clark’s Appeal
    (pp. 33-63)

    The proceedings against Ed Brown, Henry Shields, and Yank Ellington in Mississippi in 1934 were remarkably similar to the proceedings that had occurred in the Scottsboro, Alabama case in 1931. In both, black defendants were charged with especially heinous crimes in the eyes of the white South—rape of white women in the Alabama case and murder of a white man in the Mississippi case. Mob violence had also appeared to be imminent in both cases, and the black defendants were subjected to hasty indictments and trials amid assurances by the press to the public that if mob violence were...

  7. 4 Earl Brewer’s Appeal
    (pp. 64-88)

    Under Mississippi procedure, the only remaining possibility of saving the Kemper County trio from the hangman was the filing of a suggestion of error in the Mississippi Supreme Court. The suggestion of error was in the nature of a petition for a rehearing, a device by which a losing party in a case just decided by the supreme court could request the court to reconsider its decision. As a device to save Ed Brown, Henry Shields, and Yank Ellington from being executed, the suggestion of error was a long shot, since the state supreme court ordinarily dismissed suggestions of error...

  8. 5 A Question of Money: The NAACP–CIC Connection
    (pp. 89-108)

    Although Earl Brewer had agreed to serve without fee as counsel for Ed Brown, Henry Shields, and Yank Ellington as their case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court, appeals to the Court nonetheless involve expenses other than lawyers’ fees, particularly the costs of printing the record of the proceedings in the lower courts, the petition for a writ of certiorari, and the briefs to be filed in the case. A considerable amount of money therefore had to be raised to reimburse Brewer for the expenses the appeal to the Supreme Court would inevitably entail, but despite its pledge...

  9. 6 The Quiet of a Storm Center: The Brown Case and the New Deal Court
    (pp. 109-140)

    When Earl Brewer’s petition for a writ of certiorari inBrownv.Mississippiarrived at the United States Supreme Court at the end of July 1935, the Court was on the eve of a major change in its institutional setting. For seventy-five years, the Court had sat in the old Senate chamber in the Capitol, but Chief Justice William Howard Taft had believed that the Court, as one of the three coordinate branches of the national government, deserved its own building. By engaging in an intensive lobbying campaign, Taft was able to secure congressional authorization for the acquisition of a...

  10. 7 Brown v. Mississippi: Remand and Aftermath
    (pp. 141-169)

    When the United States Supreme Court announced its decision inBrownv.Mississippiin February 1936,Timemagazine accurately reported that the decision of the case of the Kemper trio was overshadowed by the Court’s decisions concerning questions of economic policy raised by the New Deal. It was therefore not unexpected that the press reactions to the Court’s decision in theBrowncase were largely in the context of the increased likelihood of a serious confrontation between the Court and President Roosevelt and the New Deal. And since the press was overwhelmingly opposed to the New Deal, theBrowndecision...

  11. A Note On Sources
    (pp. 170-170)
  12. Index
    (pp. 171-174)