Jimmy Wilson

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Jimmy Wilson, born in 1903 or 1904[1], was an African-American handyman who was convicted of robbery and sentenced to death in a Marion, Alabama court in 1958 after breaking into the house of a White widow woman, Esteele Barker and robbing, chocking, and trying to rape her. He was scared off by a light in the window before he had a chance to rape or kill her. [2]

The Montgomery Advertiser reported the story on August 2

“A 53-year-old Negro is charged with burglary, robbery and robbery with intent to ravish of an elderly widow last Saturday night.” Mrs. E. B. Baker, “said the robber ordered her to give him money, and was given a few dollars from her purse. He was not satisfied with the amount, she said, and choked and threatened her until he was frightened away by a noise from a nearby home.”

Wilson broke into Mrs. Baker's house from the back “She asked him what he wanted and he said he wanted her money. She said she had none and he said, ‘Yes, you have too.’ he made her pour out the contents of her purse on the bed, she poured about $3.95 onto the bed, and he took most of it. Wilson then attacked her. Mrs. Baker, stated “He threw me on the bed, pulled off my stepins, and attempted to rape me, that is what he did.” Baker said that Wilson told her he would kill her if she moved. But, “a light flashed outside.He jumped up and told her he would kill her if she opened her mouth and then ran out the door.”[3]

The case received international coverage, with critical articles appearing in newspapers in Liberia, Canada, Ghana, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Norway and other countries, and protest groups and petitions from Denmark, Uruguay, Switzerland, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Jamaica and elsewhere demanding that the death sentence be overturned. The US embassy in London received approximately 600 protest letters a day, and the US embassy in Dublin 400 a day. The Governor of Alabama received "an average of 1,000 letters a day from all over the world" urging clemency for Wilson. The British Labour Party and the International Commission of Jurists likewise sent letters urging clemency.

The sentence "was overturned only after intense international attention and the interference of an embarrassed John Foster Dulles".[4] It was commuted to a life sentence.

References

  1. He was 70 years old on or before October 1, 1973, when he was paroled.
  2. Dudziak, Mary L., "The Case of 'Death for a Dollar Ninety-Five: Finding America in American Injustice", University of Southern California Law School, 2007, p.5
  3. Dudziak, Mary L., "The Case of 'Death for a Dollar Ninety-Five: Finding America in American Injustice", University of Southern California Law School, 2007, p.5
  4. Synopsis of: Dudziak, Mary L., Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy, 2002, ISBN 9780691095134
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