Judge McSherry’s Heartlessness

September 9, 1899


John Mitchell passionately disputes a letter to the editor that accused him of being wrong in his report of a court case.


Our esteemed contemporary, the Frederick, Md., Afro-American in its issue of Sept. 2nd, says:
“Brave John Mitchell of the Virginia Planet, is away off when he accuses Judge McSherry as being responsible for the death of an “innocent (?) man.” The man Brown in question was beyond doubt guilty and got what he deserved. As for Judge McSherry’s ill or good will for the Negro there’s not a man in either Maryland or Virginia who has proved his willingness to do more for those who are honest and law abiding than Judge McSherry has done. Come over Brother Mitchell and meet him. He’s alright and will treat you as a man and not as a “Nigger.”
We beg leave to state that the question of the guilt or innocence of Brown is what was at issue.
Mr. Belt claimed that he had evidence to establish his innocence.
Taylor, the “star” witness against Brown declared before he went to the gallows and upon it that he had sworn to lies and that Brown was innocent.
Upon these statements duly authenticated Judge McSherry and Governor Lownes were asked not to assist in the commutation of the sentence: but to secure a reprieve of a few days or weeks in order that the matter might be investigated.
It was a matter of little consequence to either Judge McSherry or Governor Lownes. It was a matter of vital consequence to Brown.
They refused. We claim that if Brown had been as guilty as Taylor, it was a case for investigation, that a little delay could do no harm and that a failure to secure it could do no good.
Heartlessly, Judge Mc Sherry refused to join in the plea, cruelly Gov. Lownes declined to grant a reprieve and barbarously John Humphrey Brown was hanged protesting to the last of his innocence.
During our thirty years’ residence in Virginia, we do not know a Democatic white judge who would have done it. We do not know a Democatic white Governor who would have done it, and we do not elect cringing Republican officials to those kind of offices.
It was a question of mercy and humanity. The execution of John Humphry Brown, under such circumstances whether he was guilty or innocent was a crime against civilization.
When the greatest of all Lawgivers said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy,” he was equally as forcible in saying, “Blessed are the unmerciful for they shall obtain no mercy.”
Oh yes, Brother Afro-American, we agree with Mr. W. E. Belt of Chicago when he telegraphed Governor Lloyd Lownes of Maryland:
“I hold you and McSherry responsible for the death of an innocent man. This will be heralded throughout the United States. Note confession of Armistead Taylor on the scaffold.”
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Lower Left Quadrant

Contributed By

Elias Sturim


“Judge McSherry’s Heartlessness,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed April 18, 2019, http://blackvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1712.