Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Until You Are Dead Dead Dead: The Hanging of Albert Edwin Batson

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Until You Are Dead Dead Dead: The Hanging of Albert Edwin Batson

Article excerpt

Until You Are Dead Dead Dead: The Hanging of Albert Edwin Batson. By Jim Bradshaw and Danielle Miller. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2014. Pp. xiv, 235. $30.00, ISBN 978-1-62846-099-5.)

Jim Bradshaw and Danielle Miller have written an engaging account of one young man's capture, trial, and execution in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Louisiana. Albert Edwin "Ed" Batson, an itinerant farmworker who may or may not have committed six homicides near Welsh, a small town in Calcasieu Parish in the southwestern part of the state, went to the gallows on August 14, 1903. It is here, with Batson's hanging, that Bradshaw and Miller both begin and complete their story. In between, the authors reconstruct the ghastly details of the crime scene; the authorities' single-minded focus on Batson, a former hand on one of the victim's farms; Batson's subsequent trial and conviction in April 1902; his successful appeal to the state supreme court on a technicality; Batson's second trial in March 1903, which ultimately confirmed the death sentence of his first; popular opinion about the case in the surrounding areas; and the governor's refusal to listen to his pardon board and commute the sentence to life imprisonment. When, finally, Bradshaw and Miller return to the summertime scene at the gallows, they have raised as many questions about the state's prosecution as the prosecution did about Batson's innocence.

Two juries, a judge, a governor, and much of the area's citizenry believed that Batson deserved to die. Bradshaw and Miller disagree. State testimony, as they see it, neither connected Batson "to the bloody room where the bodies were found stacked one upon another, nor did it establish when the murders took place" (p. …

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