The Martinsville Seven: Race, Rape, and Capital Punishment

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University Press of Virginia, 1995 - Law - 216 pages
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In January 1949 a thirty-two-year-old white woman in Martinsville, Virginia, accused seven young black men of raping her. Within two days state and local police had rounded up all the suspects and extracted confessions from them. In a series of trials that lasted eleven days, all were found guilty and sentenced to death - a sentence that was carried out, amid a storm of protest from civil-rights advocates and death-penalty opponents, in February 1951. Here is the first comprehensive treatment of the Martinsville case.
Covering every aspect of the proceedings, from the commission of the crime through two sets of appeals, Eric Rise reexamines common assumptions about the administration of justice in the South. Although racial prejudice undeniably contributed to the outcome of the case, so did concerns for due process, crime control, community stability, judicial restraint, and domestic security.
The success of the due process campaign by groups such as the NAACP helped curb the most egregious abuses of authority, but it did little to help defendants who conceded their guilt but protested unusually severe sentences. The author focuses on the efforts of the attorneys for the Martinsville Seven, who, rather than citing procedural errors, directly attacked the discriminatory application of the death penalty. It was the first case in which statistical evidence was used to substantiate systematic discrimination against blacks in capital cases.

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User Review  - nluvwithx - LibraryThing

The book speaks of segregation, Jim Crow, and violent crimes. Seven were tried , convicted of a horrific act of rape and were executed (minutes) apart from each other in 1951. There were some who ... Read full review

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About the author (1995)

Eric W. Rise is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware.

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