Wrongly Convicted Database Record


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Alf Banks Jr



First Degree Murder



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Year Cleared:


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Judicially Exonerated Released

Summary of Case:

"Alf Banks Jr. was one of twelve co-defendants convicted in 1919 of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the death of a white person during a "riot" in Elaine, Arkansas. The conviction of six defendants were reversed by the Arkansas Supreme Court, and they were reconvicted and sentenced to death in 1920. In April 1923 the charges were dropped against those six defendants and they were released in June 1923. In June 2001 the other six co-defendants were two days from their scheduled execution when a federal court issued a stay of execution. In February 1923 the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Moore v. Dempsey, 261 U. S. 86 (1923). In granting the habeas petitions for federal review of their convictions, the court ruled, "A trial for murder in a state court in which the accused are hurried to conviction under mob domination without regard for their rights is without due process of law and absolutely void." While the six defendants were awaiting the outcome of their habeas petition, in November 1924 Arkansas Governor Thomas McRae commuted their sentences to 12 years in prison. Days before leaving office, Gov. McRae ordered the six men released on "indefinite furlough," since they had acted as "model prisoners." The convictions of those six "Elaine" defendants were not vacated or reversed."

Conviction Caused By:

"Hysteria by whites against blacks who had "rioted" in Elaine, Arkansas."

Innocence Proved By:

"Charges dismissed in April 1923, released in June 2003."

Defendant Aided By:

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Was Perpetrator Identified?

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Age When Released:




Information Source 1:

"“In Spite of Innocence: Erroneous Convictions in Capital Cases,” Michael L Radelet, Hugo Adam Bedau, and Constance E. Putnam, Northeastern University Press, Boston, 1992 p. 113-116, 284."

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Information Source 2:

"“Miscarriages of Justice in Potentially Capital Cases,” Hugo Adam Bedau & Michael L. Radelet, Stanford Law Review, November, 1987, Vol. 40, p. 93+."

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Information Source 3:

"Banks vs. State, 143 Ark. 154"

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Book About Case:

"Blood in their eyes - the Elaine race massacres of 1919, by Grif Stockley (University of Arkansas Press, 2004), paperback, 253 pgs."

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Innocents Database Created and Maintained by Hans Sherrer innocents@forejustice.org

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