[Chattanooga Times, 3/16/1906]

Case of Ed Johnson Nearing Its Last Stage


Record Will Be Before the United States Supreme Justices Today or Tomorrow Prisoner Has Religion

 Within the next forty-eight hours the case of Ed Johnson of Hamilton county Tennessee, will be before the justices at the United States supreme court in some form.  N.W.  Parden, the negro lawyer, left yesterday for Washington and today or tomorrow  he will endeavor to secure the attention of the court of last resort in behalf of the condemned rapist.  The supreme court is not in session and on that account the appeal from Judge Clark must be presented before a full bench.  During a vacation the only necessity would be to secure the  attention of one of the justices.

 The procedure in the case will be to present the record of the hearing before Judge Clark last Saturday.  As is well known that record consists of the sensational petition the answer of Attorney General Whitaker published in The Chattanooga Times last Monday, the testimony for Foster V. Brown, W.B.M. Thomas, N. W.  Parden, N. N. Whitaker, J. P. Pemberton, and Judge McReynolds as presented in that hearing and the opinion of Judge Clark which was delivered at the midnight  hour last Saturday night.  On that record the issue of a further stay of execution will be based.

 Parden visited Johnson at the jail yesterday morning and secured the latter’s signature to certain documents pertaining to the appeal and then took his departure for Washington.  He will handle the case alone and at the preliminary application there will be no representative of the state present.


 The prediction of the best lawyers here is that the supreme court will not entertain the case of interfere in the execution of the sentence of Judge McReynolds’ court.  This opinion is based upon the fact that after hearing four hours of testimony concerning the conduct of the original trial, Judge Clark decided that the federal courts had no jurisdiction.  The principal ground of that opinion was that the full resources of the state courts had not been exhausted in the case; that the record showed no effort to appeal the case to the state supreme court, and that the federal constitution had not been violated in the execution of the jury laws.

 The expectation is that the prisoner’s attorney will secure the ear of the court on Saturday and that it will be announced at once as to whether the federal courts have the right to stop in and prevent the execution of a state court’s decree in a case of this character.  Parden himself expected to return to Chattanooga next Monday.

 People here are decidedly anxious as to whether Johnson is to suffer death for his crime next Tuesday or escape for an indefinite period by reason of intervention by the court at Washington.  More unrest on the subject exists than was anticipated when Johnson was brought back to the county.

 The condemned negro has experienced religion.  He became pious during his incarceration at Knoxville.  He declared on the way home that he was ready to die and would as readily die now as at any other time.  In the county jail here he is confined apart from other prisoners.  Only occasional visitors enliven his solitude.  He declares that he is alone with his God and cares not for any other company.

 Johnson is often reminded of the grim instrument of death that waits in the basement of the jail for the word that fixes the final hour of his life, but it seems to have no terrors for him.  Of late the negro has posed for several pictures.  Aside from a restlessness of the eye, the negro’s nerve is keeping up in surprising manner, and officials at the jail are predicting that he will go to his death as calmly as he faced the victim of his crime when she sat with hand raised to heaven and denounced him as her assailant.


 Recent developments have convinced observers that there is not the popular doubt here of the negro’s guilt that has been heralded abroad.  During the recent days of suspense as to his execution the desire for information has been feverish and telephones at localities where information has been thought to be obtainable have been kept busy by inquires.  The womanhood of the community has especially been anxious concerning the outcome, and already has the anxiety about the probability of a final escape through the highest federal court becomes intense.  A well known lawyer remarked yesterday that there was at least no doubt of Johnson’s guilt among the women of Chattanooga and its suburbs.

 It is understood that the two negro lawyers have been left alone in the final effort to prolong Johnson’s life.  It is stated, however, that they have the support of the entire colored community, and that within the past few days there have been some large and rather violent meetings of negros for the purpose of raising funds to meet the expense of this final appeal.  A meeting of negros held on Monday night is said to have been attended by 600 men and one of the prominent negro preachers is said to have been charge.  The funds were raised and the case is not in abeyance until a word is received from Washington.

Shipp Trial Homepage