- Civil Rights and Public Accommodations (2001)
- The Kingfish and the Constitution (1996)
- The Iron Horse and the Constitution (April 1993)
- A Mob Intent on Death : The NAACP and the Arkansas Riot Cases (1988)
- The Supreme Court and the Second Bill of Rights: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Nationalization of Civil Liberties (1980)
- Apportionment Cases (June 1972)
- A ‘Scottsboro’ Case in Mississippi : The Supreme Court and Brown Vs. Mississippi (1986)
- Modern Constitutional Law: Commentary and Case Studies (January 1971)
- Constitutional Law and Politics: Three Arizona Case Studies (1971)
- The Arizona Train Limit Case : Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona (1970)
A Review of A ‘Scottsboro Case’ in Mississippi
by Arlissa Williams (SHS)
Richard C. Cortner’s A ‘Scottsboro’ Case in Mississippi: The Supreme Court and Brown Vs. Mississippi was an account of the case Brown v. Mississippi. This trial was an example of the injustices, unfairness, and prejudices that encompassed the state of Mississippi. Cortner’s purpose for writing this book was “to analyze the litigation that resulted in the Brown decision and to explore the circumstances that produced the case that ultimately brought it to a Supreme Court for decision.”
The nightmare of the Brown v. Mississippi, also known as the Kemper County Trio Case, began with the gruesome murder of 60-year-old white planter Raymond Stuart of Giles, Mississippi (which is six miles east of Scooba). Stuart was found in his home dying of ax wounds. This murder angered residents of Giles, Scooba, Dekalb and Meridian and began the nightmare for Ed Brown, Henry Shields, and Arthur Ellington.
“Not too much for a Negro” stated Deputy Sheriff Cliff Dial at the end of trial in the District Court. The trio was represented by John A. Clark (main attorney), Joe H. Daws, D. P. Davis and F.P. Sparks. Although these attorneys represented the defendants, they were not totally convinced of their clients’ innocence. The case in the district court stood on the grounds that the confessions given by word of mouth by Brown, Shields, and Ellington proved guilt. Although these confessions were coerced, the all-white judge and jury found the defendants guilty of murder.
The innocence of these three men was as clear as day. The beatings by the Deputy Sheriff and other officers as well as the fear of mob violence forced the trio to confess to a murder that they didn’t commit. Brown told at the trial that the trio was beaten so hard and much by the buckled end of the belt that they were forced to say that they committed the horrible crime. When asked by Clark if that is the reason why they told Mr. Adcock (sheriff of Meridian) that they committed murder, Brown responded, ” ‘Yes, sir, that is the reason. If you could see the places (on his body as a result of the beating) you would say a train didn’t move any lighter.” Regardless of this testimony , the jury unjustly found Ed Brown, Henry Shields, And Arthur Ellington guilty of murder.
This angered Attorney John Clark and he was appalled by the injustice and unfairness at the trial. Clark decided to do something about this injustice. He appealed to a higher court. With the monetary help of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Commission in Interracial Cooperation (CIC), and the International Labor Defense (ILD) Clark defended the trio at the Mississippi Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held up the district court’s decision on the grounds that the court went through the proper procedures. Despite the unfair decision, the fact that the trial was held with proper procedures kept Brown, Shields, and Ellington in the death seat.
Again Attorney John Clark was angered by this unfair treatment and wanted to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but his health had deteriorated over time and this made him unable to do so. He felt so passionately about this case that he called on his good and loyal friend Earl Brewer. Brewer brought the case to an end for his friend. He worked night and day to prevent the death of the trio. Finally, with much monetary help from the NAACP, ILD, and CIC, and Earl Brewer’s brilliance, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Mississippi Supreme Court’s decision.
With the reversal of the Supreme Court Decision, the trio was able to keep their lives. However, their trouble was not yet over. The decision called for the case to be sent back to the District Court. For two years Brown, Shields, and Ellington were held in the prison expecting a court date that was never decided upon. Finally, after the long wait, Earl Brewer and the trio discussed a plea bargain to end the long, drawn-out case. Instead of pleading guilty and Brown, Shields, and Ellington spending life in prison, they agreed to seven and one-half years for Brown, two and one-half years for Shields, and six months for Ellington.
On November 28, 1936, the Kemper County trio agreed to the plea bargain, and the nightmare was finally over. The Jackson Daily Clarion-Ledger pointed out that Brown, Shields, and Ellington “have stood within the grim shadow of the hangman’s scaffold several times since the dark and dreary…. night in March 1934 that Raymond (Stuart) was bludgeoned to his death.” The Clarion Ledger noted, “The results may seem illogical to many citizens who are not lawyers. The three Negroes either were guilty of murder deserving the death sentence, or they were innocent of all crime,'” and ended in saying “‘A ‘compromise’ ends the notorious and costly ‘Kemper county’ case which gave Mississippi so much undesirable national notoriety,…..It is closed, but its lesson should be long remembered by all Mississippi law officers and prosecutors. The lesson is that the use of torture or coercion to obtain confessions not only violates the rights of the accused persons but also jeopardizes Justice.'”
Overall, I feel that the book not only explored the trial itself but also gave the reader an insight into how the public perceived the case. With its omniscient view, I (as the reader) was able to get the full effect of the tragedy known as Brown v. Mississippi. True injustice definitely shone through ever word on this book, and it was definitely a wonderful and quite informative account of the case. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the history, law, and previous injustices that occurred in Mississippi.