[Chattanooga Times, 3/18/1906]


Ed Johnson Scheduled to Die Next Tuesday.

Shows No Interest in Efforts Supposed To Be in Progress in His Behalf at Washington.

 So far as could be learned last night there was no definite action taken by the supreme court of the United States or any member thereof in the Johnson case yesterday.  A late dispatch from Washington state that the court  was not any presentation of the case to any justice there was no publicity given to the proceeding.

 As Johnson’s day of doom approaches interest in the prisoner seems to increase, a fact shown by the number of people who daily desire to see him.  He is very popular the kodak fiends and readily submits each day to a number of picture enthusiasts who obtain permission to visit him.  Johnson agrees in every instance to take his position under the skylight and poses in his best manner for the picture hunters.

 No less than five camera men leveled their instruments on him yesterday.  To each of them he made the request that he be given prints of the pictures made.


 If  Johnson has any interest in the heroic attempt being made at this time by lawyer  Parden to prolong his life he does not show it in any way.  He has not asked a question concerning the progress of the appeal now being prosecuted at Washington.  In fact he has made no inquiry on the subject since he signed the last document before Parden left the city on his mission to the supreme court.  The impression the prisoner has made is that he does not appreciate the slender thread upon which his fate is suspended.

 In the basement of the jail stands the instrument of death, perfect and tested in every particular.  The hangman’s rope, fatal in its past history to no less than 200 persons convicted of capital crimes, dangles from its fixture in a firm joist above.  It is equal to the event which the governor’s order will require of it next Tuesday, having been tested repeatedly during the recent days, a rock of weight equal to that of the average human body having been dropped by a pull of the trigger cord to establish the trustworthiness of the apparatus.  When the drop is made in the practice that is necessary to familiarize the officers with the process, the sound reverberates through jail and sends terror to the hearts of the superstitious negros that occupy the black ward.

 Lawyer Parden’s last act to before going to Washington was to secure Judge Clark’s signature to the bill of executions which embraced a complete record of the hearing at Knoxville a week ago.  Parden stopped in Knoxville on his way to Washington and presented the record to Judge Clark.  The record consisted of the petition in the case, the answer of Attorney General Whitaker, the oral evidence given at the hearing and the judgement of the court.


 Arriving at Washington it was Parden’s first task to find Justice Harlan, who is at present assigned to this judicial circuit.  The record would be submitted to Justice Harlan whose duty it would be to examine it and then make an order either allowing or denying the appeal.  The former would end the whole matter, while the latter would occasion a further stay of execution unless a hearing on the record could be arranged for Monday.

 The proceeding before Justice Harlan is in the nature of an ex parte hearing and practice makes it obligatory upon the defense to produce a prima facie case before the justice would be justified in taking any sort of action.  Failing in that the appeal would be dismissed with no further chance for a hearing.

 Parden probably encountered a serious difficulty when he arrived in Washington.  He is not entitled to practice before the supreme court and he must need either qualify as a practitioner or secure some attorney to present his case.  A fee of $20 is required for license to practice, and the applicant must be vouched for by some recognized  authority as a lawyer licensed to practice in the supreme court of Tennessee.  Lawyers here are speculating on the question whether it will be found cheaper to pay the fee and qualify or to employ Washington attorney already authorized to practice.


 In connection with the information that Justice Harlan would be the proper medium for beginning the case in the court of last resort, it is interesting to note that those supreme justices reside within the judicial circuit.  Justice Brown lives in Michigan.  He is the member of the supreme court for whose seat Secretary Taft is slated.  Justice Day is a resident of Ohio and Justice Harlan of Kentucky.  The circuit is composed of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.  With Taft appointed as Justice Brown’s successor, two supreme justices would be residents of Ohio. However, Justice Harlan is assigned at this time to the district which includes Tennessee.

 The admission was made by Judge Shepherd yesterday that the negro’s only chance lay in the allegation of duress which ultimately caused a violation of the fourteenth amendment in the conduct of the Johnson trial.  The danger of a mob was set out as a reason why Johnson was not afforded the “equal protection of the law” mentioned in that amendment.  Judge Shepherd has written to Judge Clark a letter acquiescing in his ruling that the fifth and sixth amendments could not be applied to proceedings in the state courts.

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