U.S. Versus The City of Elk Grove Part 1 of 6 parts

Ed Johnson Lynched

Donald Tenn Human Rights Activist

Human Rights Activist Donald Tenn

Throughout history, many have stood up to the injustices perpetrated against them by their very own government. Unfortunately, all too many have quietly taken these injustices to their very own grave. I have always proudly spoken up for all those who have been wrongly accused but even so, even those wrongly accused and found guilty by an unjust law or an unjust system, as the result of an immoral and unjust government and judicial system. Still, it is imperative that we stand tall, we stand strong, we stand united for all who are wrongly accused… as justice, it may not be in the form which we seek, as long as we continue to fight, even long after we are gone… justice will eventually prevail.

I speak of justice prevailing today as I speak of a black man in the year 1906. This man was arrested and charged with raping a white woman. Such an action as rape of another human being is an injustice, as it should be, even today which should hold nothing less than the absolute most stringent of penalties, this man, whose name is forgotten by most and only memorialized in 2 places in our history, the first being, The only criminal trial in Supreme Court history. The second place is a gravesite, in an old, nearly forgotten cemetery on Missionary Ridge overseeing Chattanooga Tennessee. It is here that the gravesite and headstone of Ed Johnson can still be found. The headstone is crude, and has been neglected with time and what I would consider to be a tremendous disrepair have caused it to nearly topple over, but still it stands, even though, justice does still not and will not in the near future withstand the ravages of time. On the reverse of the headstone is chiseled the phrase, “Farewell until we meet again in the sweet by and by”, and on the front his final words: “God Bless you all. I am a Innocent Man.”

I am writing about this today as I believe on the day that Ed Johnson was lynched, a terrible injustice was perpetrated. Injustices which are still perpetuated to this day, but as I hope you can see by my remembrance of Ed Johnson and his fight for justice that he has not been forgotten. Ed Johnson was a strong man at a point in time in our history when even an insinuation of a black man raping a white woman would certainly result in an instant lynching.

I am writing this article today for several reasons, I too have been accused of injustices, my injustices have been made by both elected officials within the City of Elk Grove, and the City of Sacramento, California. I too hope to have my case, which I can prove has been nothing less than one injustice after another, heard by nothing less than the greatest court in the United States, that, of course, will be the United States Supreme Court. Just like Ed Johnson, I have proof of injustices and falsehoods perpetrated by those within a so-called position of authority which, even if justice does not prevail and they take my life, and they are hailed as heroes for doing so with statues built in their honor, eventually, as stated above, justice will prevail.

In this article, Which I hope to bring to fruition, Part 1 of my 6 part article, U.S. Versus The City of Elk Grove, I am going to recite the only case, prior to this, the only other criminal case to have ever been brought, against all odds to the greatest court in our land. Justice is not always served, not even in the greatest court in our land. There is often talk of our judicial system not being perfect, but it being the best system that we have. It is, as it has always been my contention that justice is a morality, a morality which, for the most part does not exist within our government. It certainly does not exist in the case which I hope to bring to the attention of the U.S. Supreme court. Morality can only exist within “We the People”. Only “We the People” those of us who understand the moral rights and ethics of what should be a civilized society can understand the true meaning of justice, and we must be the purveyors of said justice. We must stand united and work in a united effort for a better government, a better judicial system which will result in a better humankind and therefore a civilized society.

In each of my 6 parts of this article, I am going to correlate the injustices perpetrated against myself by the cities of Elk Grove and Sacramento, California in conjunction with those as perpetrated against Mr. Ed Johnson on March 13, 1906. I am doing so by no means to diminish the efforts of Mr. Johnson, his ethnicity, his battle, or the laws which have changed, some for the better, others, not so much… I am doing so only to show that even after 111 years, injustice and corruption still run rampant even in the face of the law, all of these years later.

The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the United States is spelled out in Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution. More specifically, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over “Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party . . . .” Original jurisdiction means that a case could be filed and argued before a specific court; for example, when you are charged with a crime in a circuit or superior court in your home county, that court is considered to have “original jurisdiction” over your case. All other cases reach the Supreme Court by what’s known as appellate jurisdiction, which means that some other court heard the case originally, rendered a decision, and that the decision is being appealed to a higher court. In the long history of the Supreme Court, very few cases have been directly filed with the Supreme Court under its original jurisdiction, and almost no criminal cases have ever been filed before it under the argument of original jurisdiction.

I said “almost” because there WAS this one time . . . .

The case was United States vs. Shipp214 U.S. 386 (1909), and it remains the only criminal trial in the history of the Supreme Court of the United States. Although the case itself has largely fallen to the dustbin of history, it remains a landmark case in the development of habeas corpus law, and the facts that led to the decision, in this case, remain as tragic today as they were 111 years ago.

The case had its start in the streets of Chattanooga, Tennessee, on January 23, 1906. On that night, Nevada Taylor, a 21-year old white woman who worked as a bookkeeper at the local grocery store left for home at approximately 6:00 p.m. She took the electric trolley towards the home that she shared with her father at the base of Lookout Mountain. Not long after stepping off the trolley, she heard footsteps behind her, and before she could turn a leather strap circled her throat, and a man’s voice whispered in her ear, “If you scream, I will kill you.” Twenty minutes later, Nevada Taylor awoke. She ran the 100 or so yards to her house, where her father used their newly installed telephone to call Sheriff Joseph Shipp to report that his daughter had been raped.

The next day, the local press began coverage, calling the attack on Ms. Taylor “the most fiendish crime in the history of Chattanooga.” Despite the fact that Ms. Taylor told the sheriff that she hadn’t seen her attacker, the newspapers leaped to the conclusion that the crime had been committed by a “Negro brute.”

On January 25, 1906, Sheriff Shipp, Hamilton County Judge Samuel McReynolds, and Tennessee Governor William Cox offered a reward of $375.00 (more than $10,000.00 today, December 2017) for anyone who could identify the attacker. Reading about the story in the newspapers, a white man named Will Hixson came forward and stated that he had seen a black man named Ed Johnson carrying a leather strap near the scene of the crime about the time that it took place.

Ed Johnson was 19 at the time, and had dropped out of school in the 4th Grade. He could not read or write, and he had no criminal record. During the day, Mr. Johnson did odd carpentry jobs for local churches, and during the night he tended pool tables at a bar called the Last Chance Saloon, which sat on the state line with Georgia.

On the strength of Mr. Hixson’s identification, Sheriff Shipp arrested Johnson. Despite three hours of interrogation (and remember, this is pre-Miranda and all of the other Court decisions designed to safeguard the rights of the accused), Johnson maintained his innocence. He claimed that he was at the Last Chance Saloon all night, and provided names for a dozen men who could substantiate his alibi. Believing that Mr. Johnson’s life would be in danger in Chattanooga, Sheriff Shipp and Judge McReynolds secretly moved Mr. Johnson to a jail in Nashville while awaiting trial. This proved to be an excellent decision, as several hundred men raided the Hamilton County Jail over the next two nights in an effort to lynch Mr. Johnson.

On January 28, 1906, Judge McReynolds announced that he had appointed two lawyers to represent Mr. Johnson. Neither of these lawyers had ever handled a criminal case in their career. A third lawyer, Lewis Shepherd, a former judge and one of the most respected lawyers in Tennessee stepped forward to volunteer his services at no cost. The next day, Judge McReynolds met with the three attorneys, and advised that he was setting Mr. Johnson’s trial in ten days. Mr. Shepherd argued that it would be impossible to prepare an adequate defense within ten days, at which point Judge McReynolds warned against filing a motion to continue the trial, stating that “I won’t grant it, and it will only make me angry.”

Mr. Shepherd next asked to move the trial to Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville, or any other jurisdiction, pointing to the two lynching attempts and the sensationalized media attention as evidence that finding an impartial jury would be next to impossible. This request also fell on deaf ears. “Don’t file a motion for change of venue. I won’t grant it, either,” was the Judge’s response.

The stage was set for speedy “justice” on February 6, 1906.

This case of course started as, “State of Tennessee vs. Ed Johnson”, this case, as stated, would eventually become the United States vs. Shipp, the only criminal trial in the history of the Supreme Court of the United States. In that in 1906 and the fact that Ed Johnson was a black male his white lawyers were informed that they only had ten days to prepare their defense, and that no motions for change of venue would be considered or granted. Obviously and unfortunately this was what was considered in this part of the country, at this point in time to be justice. 

Ed Johnson’s trial began on February 6, 1906. Thirty-four white men were summoned for jury duty, and twelve were selected. The State’s first witness was Nevada Taylor, the victim of the rape. After walking the jury thru the events, she was asked if she could identify the man who raped her.

I believe he is the man,” she said, pointing to Mr. Johnson.

The State’s second witness was Will Hixson, who claimed the $375 reward for identifying Mr. Johnson. Mr. Hixson repeated the story that he told Sheriff Joseph Shipp, that he had seen Mr. Johnson carrying a leather strap near the scene of the crime at the time that the attack took place to the jury. But under skillful cross-examination, it became apparent that Mr. Hixson was nowhere near the scene of the crime on the night of the attack. In fact, rebuttal witnesses called by the Defense testified that on the day the reward was announced in the newspapers, Mr. Hixson walked by a church where Mr. Johnson was working to repair a roof, casually obtained his identity, and was making his statement to the sheriff an hour later.

The Defense called 17 witnesses, including a dozen men who swore under oath that Ed Johnson had been working at the Last Chance Saloon at the time of the attack. Jury deliberations began on February 8, 1906. During the deliberations, Nevada Taylor was recalled to the witness stand to answer questions from the jurors.

Miss Taylor, can you state positively that this Negro is the one who assaulted you?”

I will not swear that he is the man,” she replied,

On the afternoon of February 9, 1906, Ed Johnson stood before Judge McReynolds to receive his sentence. “The jury says that I am guilty, and I guess that I will have to suffer for what somebody else has done,” Mr. Johnson said. “I guess I will be punished for another person’s crime.”

Judge McReynolds sentenced Mr. Johnson to be hanged from the neck until dead on March 13, 1906, in the basement of the Hamilton County Courthouse. “but I believe that he is the Negro who assaulted me.”

In God’s name, Miss Taylor, tell us positively: is that the guilty Negro? Can you say it? Can you swear it?” another juror asked.

Raising her left hand towards Heaven, Miss Taylor replied, “Listen to me. I would not take the life of an innocent man. But before God, I believe this is the guilty Negro.”

Pandemonium broke out in the courtroom. A third juror left his seat to charge Ed Johnson, only to be restrained by his fellow jurors. According to the records, he shouted that “If I could get at him, I would tear his heart out right now!”

To no one’s great surprise, Ed Johnson was convicted of rape. Judge Samuel McReynolds informed Mr. Johnson’s attorneys that he planned on sentencing Mr. Johnson to death. When meeting with Mr. Johnson, his attorneys reluctantly told him that any attempt at appealing the conviction would be pointless. They explained to him that he was to be sentenced to death, and that he could die either according to the court’s decision, or at the hands of a lynch mob.

U.S. Versus The City of Elk Grove Part 2 of 6 Parts coming tomorrow… December 11, 2017
The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America has guaranteed me the right and if I am not incarcerated or lynhed by these parties before that date in time, I will name all parties involved.

The names and contacts of all parties involved in these criminal actions in both the Cities of Elk Grove, The City of Sacramento and any and all other parties including copies of all documents will be included in Part 6.
The U.S. versus The City of Elk Grove Part 6 of 6