[Chattanooga Times, 3/19/1906]


U. S. Supreme Court Will Review Negroís Case


Judge Clark Receives Telegram Telling of Action Taken.


Prisoner Baptized and Received Into Church Amidst Shouts of Religious Enthusiasts-Says He Has Experienced Change of Heart and Has No Hard Feelings Towards Anyone-He Still Maintains His Innocence.

 The sentence of death pending against Ed Johnson will not be executed tomorrow.  An appeal has been granted by the United States supreme court and it cannot be predicted when an execution will take place since the granting of an appeal nullifies all previous orders of the state court and necessitates a resentencing of the prisoner in any event, if indeed it does not occasion a new process from indictment to trial and verdict.

 The following telegram was received late yesterday afternoon:

   Washington, D.C., March 18.
To Hon. C. D. Clark, U.S. Circuit Judge, Chattanooga, Tenn.:
Have allowed appeal to accused in habeas corpus case of Ed Johnson.  Transcript will be filed tomorrow and motion  also made by Johnsonís counsel for formal allowances of appeal of court.
  JOHN M. HARLAN, Assoc. Justice.

 After The Chattanooga Times was put in possession of the above telegram advice was sought from the competent legal authority as to the significance of Justice Harlanís action.  Citation was made to Section 760, Revised Statutes of the United States, and an opinion the supreme  court on that  section in the case of Lambert vs. Barrett, 150 U.S. Reports, page 660, for definite information.  From these authorities it was learned that the granting of an appeal in a case like this acted to supersede all process in the state courts.  No stay is necessary, according to the authorities, and the statute is self-operative.  Pending a decision of the appeal there can be no execution by any state authority.


 There are two alternatives depending upon the final decision in Washington.  In case the appeal is dismissed, which may be done at noon today, the prisoner will be remanded to the state court at once and then must be again taken into open court and re-sentenced, giving another term of from thirty to sixty days between the time of sentence and its execution.

 In case the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is granted under the record in the case, the prisoner  will be released from custody under his present conviction and the state court will have the privilege in case is found feasible, to indict him and try the case again.  It is given out by competent legal authority that the grounds for a release will be the sustaining of the defendantís contention that his constitutional rights have been violated.


 What was presumed to be Ed Johnsonís last Sunday on earth proved to be a busy one for him and was no doubt considered full of events momentous for him.  All day long he had visitors and in the afternoon religious services were held for him and he was baptized in accordance with the rites of the Baptist church.

 Rev. W. B. Fleming, of the St. James Baptist Church (colored), conducted the services, many of his congregation being present.  Hymns were sung in the fervent style of the negro religionists and at various times the women became noisy in their demonstrations of pious joy, the shouts, exultation and songs being heard for several squares around the jail.

 The preacher took a text and preached at set sermon and people who heard it say it was an eloquent effort.  At the close of the discourse the preacher announced that the services were for the benefit of the prisoner who was believed to be face to face with death and then called on Johnson to say something concerning his religious feelings. The prisoner folded his hands before him in an attitude of devotion and said in the low musical voice that figured in his trial:


"I have had a change of heart and I am ready to die.  The change came over me all at once and I can't tell how it was .  Before the change I hated the people that were against me.  I couldn't eat and could only think of the arrest and the trouble I was in.  I didn't want to talk or eat and I didn't want to see anyone.  All at once I said that I was willing to give up my friends and folks and life itself. if I had to, and then I felt different.  I didn't hate the white people any more, my appetite returned and I am proud now to have anyboy come to see me.  Someone asked methat day what made me eat and I said that I felt different and was ready to face anybody.  This chand of feeeling has stayed with me and I feel that way yet."

As the negro spoke there were warm responses by all the men and women gathered around him.  The preacher said that he would proceed in the regular way.  The preacher said that a motion was in order to receive Johnson into the folds of the church.


****Johnson came out in out of the water in a paroxysm of emotion. He started down the corridor clapping his hands and with his eyes toward raised wildly toward the ceiling.  His conduct further excited the women and as they began shouting and singing some of them fell to the floor, one of them apparently going into a trance.

 Johnson returned shortly and said he had forgotten to say anything about the crime which he was accused.  In a few words he reiterated his oft-repated innocence.  The preacher and others spoke of words encouragement to him, which indicated that a miracle  was expected to effect his escape from the gallows.  One of the deacons was called on to pray and the meeting broke up.


 During the long services up stairs the lower portion of the jail was crowded with negros all eager to catch any sound that came  from Johnsonís cell.  The crowd was packed into the lobby to such an extent that the jailers could control the situation only with difficulty and it extended outside to almost the street.

 A bystander made a striking comparison to the crowd yesterday with that of January 25, when the jail was crowded in like manner but with angry white citizens.  There was not much difference in the difficulty encountered by the officers in handling  yesterdayís crowd but hostility was replaced by curiosity and interest.  All the negros were continually calling to mind that it was Johnsonís last Sunday of life.

 Visitors to the prisoner yesterday were not all confined to his negro friends.  A morbid desire seemed to possess large numbers of white people to see the prisoner.  Many of them left him fruit, sweetmeats and delicacies and last night his cell was well filled with the dayís offerings. There were numbers of oranges, apples, cakes and other good things to eat and books and magazines were also left for him to read.  He appeared glad to see all who called and talked freely when spoken to.

 Preparations for the execution had been practically completed, but of course there will be a pause in that regard now.  The prisoner was not informed last night of the news from Washington.

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