Victims of the State

11 Cases

Map of Counties

U.S. Cases


County:   Chattanooga   Coffee   Davidson   Hamilton
Knox   Shelby   Sullivan   Sumner   Union

Chattanooga County, TN
Ed Johnson
Jan 23, 1906

Ed Johnson, a black man, was sentenced to death for the rape of a 21-year-old white woman.  The victim, Nevada Taylor, was assaulted near Forest Hills Cemetery in Chattanooga.  Johnson appealed his conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds that he had not been accorded due process of law.  The Supreme Court accepted his case and issued a stay of execution.  The county sheriff and judge did nothing to diffuse local outrage at what was viewed as Supreme Court meddling.  On Mar. 19, 1906, within hours of telegrams announcing the stay, a large mob seized Johnson from the Chattanooga County Jail and lynched him on the Walnut Street bridge.  Sheriff Joseph Shipp and other officials were subsequently tried and convicted by the U.S. Supreme Court of criminal contempt.  The proceedings were the only criminal trial ever held by the U.S. Supreme Court.  In 2000, Johnson's conviction was posthumously vacated.  (Famous Trials) (FJDB)  [10/08]

Coffee County, TN
Andy Houser
June 3, 2003

Andy Houser's son Ethan died suddenly while in his care.  After the medical examiner, Dr. John Gerber, ruled that that Ethan died of “shaken baby syndrome,” police arrested Houser for Ethan's murder.  Besides the police, Houser's in-laws and wife soon believed he was guilty.  Houser's first child was born with a chromosome disorder and a hole in his heart, and died days after birth.  His wife became pregnant again, but miscarried in the first trimester.  Ethan, Houser's next child, appeared healthy for the first 9 weeks of his life.  He then had three bouts of projectile vomiting, after which doctors could find nothing wrong with him.  While in Houser's care, Ethan then stopped breathing.  Houser resuscitated him using CPR, but Ethan stopped breathing again while Houser was driving him to the hospital.  The hospital declared Ethan dead.

Houser's trial was delayed because the medical examiner died.  The prosecution needed time for an assistant to examine the autopsy findings so that a witness could present medical testimony.  In the meantime, Houser's defense found a defense expert, Dr. Ronald Uscinski, who was a skeptic of shaken baby syndrome and had testified in numerous shaken baby trials.  Uscinski found nothing to indicate that Ethan was shaken.  Instead he found that Ethan had suffered a series of strokes over time including possibly prior to birth, and that he had died from these.  The medical examiner's assistant, Dr. Thomas Deering, then had second thoughts on the original autopsy findings and subsequently agreed with Uscinski.  Deering then issued an amended autopsy report and the charges against Houser were dropped.  (Tennessean)  [3/07]

Davidson County, TN
Frank Ewing
June 24, 1918

Frank Ewing, a black man, was convicted of raping a 25-year-old white woman after being brought to the victim and identified by her.  The victim, A. F., was raped at her home on Stokes Lane, west of Hillsboro Pike, a few miles south of Nashville.  A police officer testified that Ewing confessed to the crime.  However, Ewing had a strong alibi that he was working 25 miles away at the time of the crime.  The alibi was supported by multiple witnesses, none of whom had known Ewing long or had a plausible reason to lie.  The alibi was also supported by written records.

At trial, however, Ewing's white employer, J. M. Summers, was his only alibi witness, and on the day of his testimony he had misplaced records of Ewing's employment.  The rape had occurred on a Monday.  Without his records, Summers mistakenly remembered that Ewing had left his employment after the rape at the end of the week.  Ewing had actually left Summers employment on Wednesday.  The prosecutor was able to bring out that Ewing had been working elsewhere at the end of the week and that consequently Summers' statement was wrong.  On appeal, further alibi evidence was submitted including the written records, but appeals courts declined to reverse Ewing's conviction.  Ewing was executed in the electric chair on May 31, 1919.  (Wrongly Convicted)  [7/08]

Davidson County, TN
Russell Maze
May 3, 1999

Russell Maze's 5-week-old child, Alex, suffered internal head bleeding on May 3, 1999 consistent with “Shaken Baby Syndrome.”  Alex died 18 months later in Oct. 2000.  Maze was convicted of Alex's death and sentenced to 51 years in prison.  Recent biomechanical studies have shown “Shaken Baby Syndrome” to be a largely imaginary diagnosis as it is almost impossible for an adult to shake a baby hard enough to cause brain injury.  Alex had been born underweight and 6 weeks premature.  (www.truthforalexmaze.com)  [3/07]

Hamilton County, TN
Jerry & Mike Brock
2001 - 2003

(Federal Case)  Brothers Jerry and Mike Brock were convicted of conspiring to extort money from the Sessions Court of Hamilton County, Tennessee.  The two had allegedly paid a deputy clerk, Simon Simcox, to remove the names of bail jumpers from the court computer system. The brothers purportedly did this so they would not have the money they put up for bail forfeited to the court.  Both brothers were sentenced to 21 months in prison.

On appeal, the federal Sixth Circuit Court vacated the brothers' convictions.  It ruled that the brothers could not be guilty of conspiring to extort money, since, at best, they were trying to keep their own money and a person cannot extort money from himself.  (FJDB) (Chattanoogan) [9/08]

Knox County, TN
Maurice Mays
Aug 30, 1919 (Knoxville)

Maurice F. Mays, a black man, was convicted of murdering Mrs. Bertie Linsey, a white woman.  Mays was sentenced to death and executed in the electric chair on Mar. 15, 1922.  Nevertheless, in 1926, Sadie Brown Mendil, a white woman, confessed to the crime in Virginia.  She said she had dressed up as a black man to kill the woman with whom her husband was having an affair.  Virginia authorities found the confession to be credible, although authorities in Tennessee dismissed it.

On a Saturday morning, a presumably black intruder shot Mrs. Linsey in her bed.  The police arrested Mays that day and took him to the Knox County Jail after Ora Smyth, the only witness to the crime, had identified him as the man responsible.

Angry whites began to gather near the Knox County Jail.  Some even entered the building to search for Mays, but he had been moved to a jail in Chattanooga for his own safety.  In the evening, the mob outside the jail was about a thousand strong.  They decided to storm the jail and lynch Mays.  Using large timbers, guns, and dynamite, the mob entered the jail and freed the white prisoners.

The jailer quickly called Mayor McMillan who requested the assistance of the National Guard to break up the riot.  The first 17 soldiers to arrive were stripped and beaten by the rioters.  An hour later, about 150 more soldiers arrived but the storming of the jail continued.  Around midnight, the National Guardsmen heard of several hold ups by a band of blacks in the black section of Knoxville, near Vine Avenue and Central Street.  A platoon was sent to the scene and many civilians followed the soldiers.

The white mob then began raiding and looting many businesses, particularly pawn shops and hardware and furniture stores.  There was only evidence of blacks breaking into a single establishment.  Eventually snipers and the troops began to exchange fire.  Hundreds were wounded in the fighting and seven people (only one of them white) were killed.  After the riots, many blacks immediately started to leave Knoxville, bringing with them whatever possessions they could carry.  (TBJ) (Mays v. State)  [9/05]

Shelby County, TN
Clark McMillan
Oct 26, 1979 (Memphis)

Clark Jerome McMillan, a black man, was convicted of the rape of a white girl and the knife-wielding robbery of her boyfriend.  McMillan wore a leg brace but neither victim initially mentioned that the perpetrator had an obvious limp.  The boyfriend identified a filler in a photo spread and in a lineup, but both victims identified McMillan in a lineup at trial.  McMillan had his sister and his girlfriend as alibi witnesses.  DNA tests exonerated McMillan in 2002 after he served 22 years of his 119-year sentence.  In 2004, he was awarded $832,950.  (IP)  [7/05]

Shelby County, TN
Phillip Workman
Aug 5, 1981 (Memphis)

Phillip Workman robbed a Wendy's restaurant with a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol.  On leaving, police officers gave chase and Workman tripped on a curb.  He yelled, “I give up!” and tried to pull his gun from his pants to give to officers.  As he tried to surrender his weapon, he was hit on the head with a flashlight.  At that moment his pistol went off, aimed straight up at the sky.  Suddenly he was surrounded by gunfire, and he tried to run again, but tripped and his gun went off, firing another shot into the air.  Workman escaped the immediate melee, but a civilian found him hiding under a truck.  He was covered with blood from his head wound, and had a shotgun wound to his buttocks.

At the scene of the shootout, a police officer, Lt. Ronald Oliver, lay dying from a bullet that passed completely through his body.  Oliver would soon be dead.  Workman was convicted of Oliver's murder and sentenced to death.  In 1990, exculpatory ballistic evidence was discovered that showed that Oliver was not shot by a bullet from Workman's gun.  Instead, Oliver must have been killed by “friendly fire.”  An eyewitness at trial, Harold Davis, recanted testimony that he had seen the shooting.  The police report on the crime scene never noted Davis's presence and five other people near the scene do not remember seeing Davis.

A civilian eyewitness, Steve Craig, who never testified at trial, said he saw Officer Parker fire a shotgun at Workman.  Craig also stated that police told him, “There was no need to talk about this ... unless it was with someone from the department.”  In the trial transcript, Officers Stoddard and Parker repeatedly testified that only two people fired guns, Workman and Oliver.  Ballistics and Craig's statements imply Officers Stoddard and Parker committed perjury.  The new evidence caused Workman's scheduled execution date to be postponed several times.  Workman was executed by lethal injection on May 9, 2007.  (Justice: Denied)  [1/07]

Sullivan County, TN
Jeffrey Dicks
Feb 15, 1978 (Kingsport)

Jeffrey Stewart Dicks and another man, Donald Wayne Strouth, were convicted of the capital felony murder of James Keegan.  Keegan was killed during the robbery of a Kingsport clothing store.

At Strouth's trial, the state presented hearsay evidence that Strouth had committed the murder. Different people related that Strouth had said to them that he hit the victim in the head with a rock, that he had to hurt the victim, and that he had to slit his throat. The state vouchsafed this evidence as trustworthy as it was inculpatory of Strouth. However, at Dicks's trial the same evidence was deemed untrustworthy and prohibited, as it was exculpatory of Dicks. One would think the reverse situation might apply, as the evidence might be trustworthy enough to prove reasonable doubt, but not absolute guilt.  Other witnesses offering evidence of Dick's innocence were also prohibited from testifying. Dicks was prevented from presenting a full defense as allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Chambers v. Mississippi.
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Sumner County, TN
Marshall & Spurlock
Feb 20, 1989

Ronnie Marshall and Robert Spurlock were convicted of the murder of Lonnie Malone.  Malone's body was found on Feb. 21, 1989 in a concrete culvert on Bug Hollow Road.  He had died of multiple stab wounds.  The state's theory was that Marshall and Malone sold drugs for Spurlock. When Malone failed to pay for the drugs that Spurlock furnished him, Spurlock decided to kill him. According to the state, Marshall aided and abetted Spurlock in killing Malone.  Marshall supposedly found Malone, delivered him to Spurlock, and was present when Spurlock killed Malone.  In 1996, Marshall's and Spurlock's convictions were vacated after the real killer confessed.  (State v. Marshall)  [5/08]

Union County, TN
Paul House
July 13, 1985

Paul House was sentenced to death for murdering his neighbor and friend Carolyn Muncey during an alleged attempted rape.  Evidence showed that Muncey had semen of House's blood type on her, and House had blood of Muncey's blood type on a pair of his jeans.  Later it was determined that the blood on House's jeans came from a missing autopsy vial and was spread on deliberately, presumably to frame him for the murder.  In addition, DNA tests showed that the semen came from Muncey's husband.  Witnesses have come forward who say that Muncey's husband confessed to accidentally killing her.  In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that House would not have been convicted had the DNA evidence been available and a federal judge overturned his conviction.  House was released in July 2008 after an anonymous donor paid his $100,000 bail.  Charges against him were dropped in May 2009.  (TruthInJustice)  [11/05]