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Dallas Reporter Aids in Reversal of a Lynch Victim's Conviction

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Dallas Reporter Aids in Reversal of a Lynch Victim's Conviction

Article excerpt

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT IN RAPE CASE - 94 YEARS LATER

Most of the time, he's a legal-affairs reporter for The Dallas Morning News, but recently he played a major role in righting a historical wrong.

On Feb. 24, in a criminal court in Chattanooga, Tenn., Mark Curriden spoke on behalf of Ed Johnson, a local black man who was lynched in 1906 for the alleged rape of a white woman. His goal was to exonerate Johnson, who didn't commit the crime, but was convicted by a corrupt court and sentenced to die. The U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to stay his execution and consider his case, but Johnson was killed by a lynch mob who seized him from jail and hanged him from a bridge.

"There's no doubt he was innocent," Curriden said. "It was the right thing to do: to have the conviction reversed."

Curriden assisted LeRoy Phillips, a local lawyer who filed the petition to have the charges dropped on behalf of the Rev. Paul A. McDaniel, a local minister, who served as Johnson's "next friend" because there were no family members present.

Curriden said his role in the case was to answer the judge's historical questions about the court proceedings from 1906, when he said a juror attacked Johnson in the courtroom, the main witness couldn't identify him, and his lawyers abandoned him.

After Curriden, Phillips, and McDaniel presented their case, Bill Cox, the district attorney, declined to oppose them. …

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