One of the most shocking racial crimes that ever took place in the United States occurred
on October 17, 1981. That week a jury had been struggling to reach a verdict in the case of
a black man, Josephus Anderson, accused of murdering a white policeman. The killing had
occurred in Birmingham, Alabama, but the trial had been moved to Mobile, Alabama. Francis
Hays, the second-highest Klan official in Alabama, and his fellow members of Unit 900 of the
United Klans, knew that the presence of blacks on the jury meant that a guilty man would go
free. According to Klansmen, who attended the unit's weekly meeting, Hays had preached that
Wednesday saying, “If a black man can get away with killing a white man, we ought to be able
to get away with killing a black man”(Kornbluth).
A young black male, Michael Donald, was abducted in downtown Mobile, Alabama
and taken somewhere across the bay. Two Ku Klux Klan members, Francis Hays and James
“Tiger” Knowles, were arrested and charged with the murder. A third individual, Benjamin Cox,
was also charged as an accomplice. The three were sent to trial and one was executed, Hayes,
and the other two are serving time in prison.
The Klansmen got together that Friday night at Bennie’s house after the trial. According
to James “Tiger” Knowles, Tiger brought a borrowed firearm. Henry Francis Hays took part in
the crime by bringing supplies to help with the murder. The group of men devised a plan and
drove around the city looking for a black man to kill.
Michael Donald was walking home alone when the two saw him. They pulled over,
asked him a few questions, then pulled out the firearm and pointed it towards Michael and
demanded he get in the vehicle. They kept driving until they got to the next county. When they
stopped, Michael begged them not to kill him, then tried to escape. “I can’t believe this is
happening. I’ll do anything you want. Beat me, just please don’t kill me” said Donald (http://
kkk.org/recent-news/michael_donald_lynching). Henry Hays and Knowles chased him, caught him,
hit him with a tree limb several times and when he was no longer moving, wrapped the rope
around his neck and put thirteen knots in it. Henry Hays stepped on his face and pulled on the
rope. They still were not exactly sure he was dead so they cut his throat three times
However, the three defendants had evidence tying them to the crime scene but that
was completely discredited in court. The prosecution’s witness offered proof and evidence
of samples of soil that tied the defendants to the crime. That evidence was then matched to
Douglas’ clothing. Although the evidence incriminates the defendants, it was all thrown out
because of inappropriate mistakes made in the testimonies given to the jury. Inexperience caused
them to lose the evidence.
The defendants admitted their guilt and testified that Hays was the chief conspirator.
Following completion of the trial, the expert...