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On May 3, 1946, a seventeen-year-old boy was scheduled to die by the electric chair inside of a tiny red brick jail in picturesque St. Martinsville, Louisiana. Young Willie Francis had been charged with the murder of a local pharmacist. The electric chair-three hundred pounds of oak and metal- had been dubbed Gruesome Gertie” and was moved from one jailhouse to another throughout the state of Louisiana. The switch would be thrown at 12:08 P.M., but Willie Francis did not die. Miraculously, having survived this less than cordial encounter with death, Willie was soon informed that the state would try to kill him again in six days. Letters began pouring into St. Martinsville from across the country-Americans of all colors and classes were transfixed by the fate of this young man. A Cajun lawyer just returned from WWII, Bertrand DeBlanc would take on Willie's case-in the face of overwhelming local resistance. DeBlanc would argue the case all the way from the Bayou to the U.S. Supreme Court. In deciding Willie's fate the courts and the country would be forced to ask questions about capital punishment that remain unresolved today.
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Gilbert King is the author of Woman, Child For Sale: The New Slave Trade in the 21st Century, which was selected by the Detroit Free Press as one of its ten notable books of 2004. In the award-winning documentary Willie Francis Must Die Again, narrated by Danny Glover, King is interviewed on camera. In addition, King has contributed articles to numerous newspapers and magazines, including Ring Magazine, Playboy, and the San Diego Union. King lives in New York City.From Publishers Weekly:
I AM N-N-NOT DYING! screamed Willie Francis, a 17-year-old African-American convicted of murder by an all-white Louisiana jury in 1946, during the failed electrocution that kicks off this tale of justice gone awry in the segregated American South. As told in a sometimes repetitious avalanche of detail by King (Woman, Child for Sale), Francis's story is emblematic of the time and place—a prominent white man in a Cajun town was gunned down, and soon Francis was picked up and, under duress and without an attorney, confessed to the crime. Despite no eyewitnesses and scant physical evidence, Francis was convicted and sentenced to death. After surviving the first execution attempt, he waited in prison nearly a year while the battle over his fate went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. After a page-turning start with the ill-fated execution attempt described in gripping detail, King runs out of steam. What's of interest is the horrifying botched execution and the fact, revealed late in the narrative, that Francis never denied committing the murder. While his eventual execution is tragic, this account doesn't add much to our understanding of U.S. race relations. 16 page b&w insert not seen by PW. (Apr.)
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Book Description Civitas Books, 2008. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M046500265X
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