by Hugo Adam Bedau and Michael L. Radelet

Excerpt from Appendix A: Catalogue of Defendants

HOLLINS, JESS (black). 1931. Oklahoma. Hollins was convicted of rape and sentenced to death. He had engaged in sexual relations with a white woman. She and her brother-in-law charged Hollins with rape. Alarmed by lynching rumors and unaided by legal counsel after his arrest, Hollins promptly pleaded guilty. The trial lasted less than one hour.1 On appeal, the conviction was reversed because the plea was judged to have been made out of fear of lynching.2 In 1934, at a second trial before an all-white jury, Hollins was again convicted and sentenced to death. On appeal, the conviction was affirmed.3 Thirty hours before the scheduled execution, the United States Supreme Court granted a stay and subsequently overturned the conviction because of the exclusion of blacks from the jury.4 In 1936, a third trial was held, again before an all-white jury. Again, the sole evidence against Hollins was the testimony of the alleged victim. Defense attorneys were able to document the poor reputation of the victim; they argued that she had voluntarily consorted with Hollins and cried rape only when she and Hollins unexpectedly encountered her brother-in-law.5 Nonetheless, Hollins was again convicted, although this time he was sentenced to life imprisonment. One newspaper editor reported that several dozen whites had told him in private that the prosecution’s case was not really believable.6 Hollins, however, having already once been shaved for electrocution, refused to put his life in jeopardy again by appealing his conviction, despite the obvious violation of due process in the racial composition of the jury. He died in prison in 1950.7


1. See Martin, Oklahoma’s “Scottsboro” Affair: The Jess Hollins Rape Case, 1931-1936, at 79 S. ATLANTIC Q. 175, 176 (1980).
2. Ex parte Hollins, 54 Okla. Crim. 70, 14 P.2d 243 (1932).

3. Hollins v. State, 56 Okla. Crim. 275, 38 P.2d 36 (1934).

4. Hollins v. Oklahoma, 295 U.S. 394 (1935) (per curiam).
5. See Martin, supra note 1, at 183-84.
6. Roscoe Dunjee, editor of the Oklahoma City Black Dispatch, had played an important role in the defense of the young man throughout the case. Id. at 184.
7. See R. KLUGER, SIMPLE JUSTICE (1975) at 161; Martin, supra note 1, at 186.