Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Brown v. Mississippi

That was the landmark Supreme Court decision that held inadmissible evidence derived from torture, pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment. Three black men were tortured until they confessed to killing a white man, and the deputy who supervised the torture admitted to it on the stand. The Court quoted from Justice Griffith's dissent below (joined only by one other, Justice Anderson):
It is interesting to note that in his testimony with reference to the whipping of the defendant Ellington, and in response to the inquiry as to how severely he was whipped, the deputy stated, 'Not too much for a negro; not as much as I would have done if it were left to me.'
I wondered who the attorneys were. The petitioners were represented by Earl Brewer, onetime Democratic/Progressive governor of Mississippi, and J. Morgan Stevens, apparently one of the oft-omitted name partners of Butler Snow O'Mara Stevens & Cannada, which firm does not seem to include any information on its founders anywhere on its website.

For the state were W.D. Conn of Corinth and W.H. Maynard of Baltimore, MD. I can't find much on Conn; someone of his name was principal of the Alcorn County public school after 1894, and a William Dow Conn whose dates are 1896-1953 is listed on the same website's genealogy page; he seems to've graduated from Ole Miss as a bachelor of laws in 1906. W.H. Maynard appears active in the Episcopalian Church, perhaps a founder of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Baltimore.

Of course, the prosecutor was the future Senator John C. Stennis, whose career doesn't seem to've suffered. Wikipedia records that the petitioners pleaded guilty to manslaughter on remand, rather than face another (white) jury.


  1. There's a decent U. Press of Mississippi book about the case. It's one of the giant landmarks between WWI and WWII of constitutional criminal procedure (the others-- Powell v. Alabama Scottsboro / right to counsel and Moore v. Dempsey / a trial held during civil unrest isn't really a trial and a federal court can grant habeas relief (overturning the holding in Leo Frank's case). Moore was out of Arkansas, involved a race riot at Helena.

  2. Cool, I'll have to track that down. Remarkable what a "bleeding heart" McReynolds could be, at least where corporations weren't involved ....