CLE# 2011-012: Contempt of Court: A Lynching that Changed the American Justice System
Date: Wednesday, March 30, 2011
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Discussion led by Mark Curriden with panel members Justice Morgan Christen, Judge Larry Card, Ms. Susan Orlansky and Mr. John Murtagh
During the first 90 minutes of the presentation, Mark Curriden, co-author, tells the story of the only two African-American lawyers practicing law in Tennessee in 1906 and their representation of a black man falsely accused of rape and sentenced to death. The two lawyers -- one a family lawyer, the other a plaintiff's small claims trial lawyer -- made history when they filed the first ever federal habeas petition in a state criminal case. To everyone's shock, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and stayed the execution. But before the justices could act, a lynch mob, aided by the sheriff and his deputies, lynched thedefendant and went after the lawyers and their families. But those lawyers convinced the Supreme Court to charge the sheriff, his deputies and leaders of the mob with criminal contempt of the Supreme Court, leading to the first and only criminal trial ever held in the history of the Supreme Court of the United States.
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