Thursday, January 05, 2006

Cold justice

My friend Jerry Mitchell of the Jackson, Miss., Clarion Ledger continues to demonstrate what real journalism is all about:
Farmer innocent in 1960 burglary, witness declares

Investigation shows decorated Army war veteran imprisoned on false charges

HATTIESBURG — When Clyde Kennard refused to give up his quest to become the first black student to enroll at the University of Southern Mississippi, authorities sent him to state prison in 1960 for seven years.

Now a three-month investigation by The Clarion-Ledger has revealed the decorated Army veteran was locked up for a crime he never committed.

In the 1960 trial, 19-year-old Johnny Lee Roberts testified Kennard, a 33-year-old devout Baptist and farmer, put him up to breaking into Forrest County Co-op to steal $25 in feed, even describing how he should leave the warehouse door unlocked.

Now, 45 years later, Roberts said none of that is true. Approached by The Clarion-Ledger, he said he's willing to swear under oath Kennard never put him up to burglary, never asked him to steal, never asked him to do anything illegal: "He wasn't guilty of nothing."

An amazing story, really. Go read the whole thing.

Jerry, incidentally, was recently awarded the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism from Columbia University for his body of work. Jerry's the youngest ever to receive the award. When you look at what he's done, though, it's easy to see he's easily earned it. And is still doing so.

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