Date of Alleged Crime
|Randolph County, GA
|Apr 30, 1944 (Cuthbert)
Lena Baker, a black woman, was convicted of murdering Ernest B. Knight, a white grist mill owner. After Knight hired Baker to care for him while he nursed a broken leg, a sexual relationship developed between the two. Following Baker's attempts to break off the relationship, Knight found her and forced her to go with him. Baker managed to escape, but Knight found her again and locked her in a gristmill. Later, according to Baker, during a tussle between the two over a gun, the gun went off killing Knight.
In 1998 while the director of a prisoner's rights group, John Cole Vodicka, was visiting the Randolph County Courthouse, the Court Clerk asked him if he wanted to look into Baker's case. The clerk gave him the court file, which included the 10-page trial transcript. Vodicka later came into contact with a great-nephew of Baker, and in 2003 helped in the filing of a pardon application for her with the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. Vodicka expressed confidence that "almost any lawyer could have pled Lena Baker not guilty by reason of self-defense.” The Board of Pardons and Paroles apparently agreed with him and granted Baker a posthumous pardon on Aug. 30, 2005. (JD29 p8) [10/08]