INVITATION TO A LYNCHING: Murder and Justice in the Florida Panhandle by Gene Miller

INVITATION TO A LYNCHING: Murder and Justice in the Florida Panhandle

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A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist tells the story of two black men, Wilbert Lee and Fred Pitts, apparently framed for the 1963 robbery-murder of two white gas station attendants in Florida. The case has become a model of Southern small-town justice, with the two suspects tried, sentenced and expedited to death row within 30 days of their arrest. The evidence against them was based on an extorted confession and the testimony of intimidated witnesses. A court-appointed lawyer told them to plead guilty, and a sleazy lie-detector expert. Three years later a white convict confessed to the crime and his statement was corroborated by his mistress. Yet Lee and Pitts were not released, the Florida courts would not give the white man, Curits Adams (he was already serving a life prison sentence) immunity for an admission that could have sent him to the electric chair. Despite the work of conscientious Miami Herald reporters, attorneys, and some officials in the state Attorney General's office, Pitts and Lee are in jail today, their sentence commuted to life imprisonment. Miller brings little vitality to the story, his book being mostly drawn from court transcripts, but the drama inherent in the case may be sufficient to hold the reader's dismayed attention.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1975
Publisher: Doubleday