A bunch of authorized minds is hoping to have the person, whose extended trial and execution was the catalyst for the Illinois 1908 race riot, pardoned for an unfair conviction. The attorneys submit the jury was racially prejudiced, and thus didn’t give the person a good trial.
The Heart on Wrongful Convictions and Northeastern College Faculty of Legislation’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Mission in Boston have filed a petition for government clemency on behalf of Joe James, an early Twentieth-century Black man convicted by a racially charged white jury, in keeping with the Related Press.
Police arrested James, who was 19 years outdated on the time, as he was sleeping underneath a tree in Springfield, Illinois on July 4, 1908. James was accused of beating up a white mine engineer named Clergy Ballard, who later died from his accidents.
Ballard’s daughter Blanche, 16, mentioned a wierd man broke into their residence, tried to lure her out of her mattress with the intention of raping her, and fought her father. Throughout the combat, the unusual man reduce and stabbed her father till he was virtually lifeless.
Researcher Carole Merrit reported in her piece “One thing So Horrible: The Springfield Race Riot of 1908” for President Abraham Lincoln’s official library challenged the account, asking how a lethal combat broke out and never awaken her two brothers who had been within the residence or any of the neighbors.
The subsequent day, James was discovered sleeping a couple of blocks from the Ballard residence. He was recovering from an extended evening of ingesting, playing and enjoying piano at a few saloons and brothels within the Black district of town known as Levee.
In keeping with the Restorative Justice Mission, James, initially from Alabama, was a touring pianist who got here to the world for work and had the intention to proceed to play all through the Midwest.
New to town, he wandered into the North Finish, an space for whites, and fell asleep. 4 white women observed the Black individual locally and went and instructed others.
One way or the other the unusual man from the home and James, a stranger within the neighborhood, had been conflated.
Ballard’s sons and a few neighbors first confronted James, beating him “severely.” His eyes had been reportedly swollen shut, his lips break up open and he was bleeding from one in every of his ears and his nostril.
Officers got here and noticed him and arrested him for allegedly beating up Ballard. James, nevertheless, had no clue why he was detained.
“I used to be so drunk I don’t know the place I used to be or what I did,” he mentioned.
Clergy Ballard died on the morning of his arrest, and the assault crime escalated to homicide.
The headlines within the newspapers, which incited the white mob already offended about one other allegation of a Black man raping a white girl, painted “Ballard was the chivalrous White man who was known as upon to guard the purity of his daughter from the lust and brutality of a Black intruder.”
Earlier than James may very well be tried and later executed, a white mob sought to get justice on their very own phrases. They displaced the punishment they thought James ought to have obtained instantly onto the Black individuals locally.
The mob burned down buildings and terrorized African-People within the space, largely as a result of the regulation was taking too lengthy to convict James and one other Black man of crimes in opposition to white girls— and Ballard’s homicide.
Months later, on Oct. 23, 1908, James was hanged exterior of the Sangamon County jail. Additionally, the a whole lot of white individuals arrested for rioting and terrorizing Black individuals (which included lynching), had been acquitted and let loose.
“All through historical past, we’ve got seen white juries not solely convict and execute Black women and men on scant proof however acquit whites who homicide Black individuals within the face of overwhelming proof of guilt,” mentioned Margaret Burnham, founding director of Northeastern’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Mission.
“This double normal operated in Springfield in 1908,” she added, infecting Springfield’s legal justice system and depriving James of a good trial.”
The attorneys pushing for James’ pardon aren’t saying he did or didn’t do the crime. They’re saying he didn’t get a good trial.
“James’ factual innocence isn’t the main target of this petition, as a result of the passage of time and the destruction of proof have made it unattainable to show conclusively that James was harmless,” mentioned Steve Drizin, co-director of Northwestern College’s Pritzker Faculty of Legislation’s Heart on Wrongful Convictions.
Their pardon petition is scheduled to be reviewed in April 2023. Ought to the board settle for the petition, they’d advocate Gov. J.B. Pritzker to posthumously pardon the person 115 years after his conviction.
This may make James’ pardon the third of its sort within the state of Illinois within the final decade.