The Execution of Willie Francis by Gilbert King
Race, Murder, and the Search for Justice in the American South

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Synopsis

On May 3, 1946, in St. Martinsville, Louisiana, a seventeen-year-old black boy was scheduled for execution by electric chair. Willie Francis had been charged with murder; his trial had been brief; his death sentence never in doubt. When the executioners flipped the switch, Willie screamed and writhed as electricity coursed through his body. But Willie Francis did not die.

Having miraculously survived, Willie was informed that the state would attempt to execute him a second time within a week. The ensuing legal battle went all the way to the Supreme Court, asking: Could the state electrocute someone twice? A gripping narrative about a brutal crime and its shocking aftermath, The Execution of Willie Francis offers a heroic—and ultimately tragic—tale of one man’s quest for moral justice in a nation still blinded by race.

 

About Gilbert King

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Gilbert King has written about U.S. Supreme Court history for the New York Times and the Washington Post, and is a featured contributor to Smithsonian magazine's history blog, Past Imperfect. He is the author of The Execution of Willie Francis: Race, Murder, and the Search for Justice in the American South. He lives in New York City with his wife and two daughters.
 
Published February 24, 2009 by Basic Civitas Books. 403 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Law & Philosophy, Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction

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The informed and reader-friendly discussion of the legal issues and maneuvers attending the Francis appeal, including the intriguing backstage drama at the nation’s highest court, is reason enough to recommend this story, but King’s masterful applications of Bayou State color set this book apart.

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