A call for justice, but the lynch
mob is only lightly punished. Two blacks are tried on questionable
charges of rape.
Photo of Judge William A. Cant.
Enraged and shocked, upstanding Duluthians
and leaders of Minnesota’s black community called for
the swift and harsh punishment of the lynchers and mob members.
National organizations such as the NAACP, American Civil Liberties
Union, and the United Negro Improvement Association urged
Governor Burnquist and the state to vigorously prosecute those
guilty of lynching.
Irene Tusken’s allegation of
rape remained. Though three blacks had been lynched because
of her unsubstantiated claims, no one had yet been tried in
a court of law. Her story implicated six blacks, and Duluth
investigators were bent on receiving convictions.
Duluth District Judge William Cant
convened a grand jury investigation on June 17, two days after
the lynchings. Identifying the leaders and instigators of
the massive lynch mob proved difficult. Some Duluthians were
sympathetic to those seen as merely “caught in the moment”
and giving into the mob mentality.
In the following weeks, the grand jury issued
thirty-seven indictments for whites implicated in the lynch
mob: twenty-five for rioting and twelve for the crime of
murder in the first degree. Some people received indictments
for both offenses. Eight whites were tried. Four were acquitted
and one trial resulted in a hung jury.
Scrutchin, defense lawyer hired by NAACP.
Three of the whites — Louis Dondino, Carl
Hammerberg, and Gilbert Stephenson — were convicted for rioting.
Each served less than fifteen months in prison. No one was convicted
Seven blacks, all laborers from the
John Robinson Circus, were indicted by the grand jury for
the crime of rape. The NAACP hired three black attorneys —
Frederick Barnett Jr., Charles W. Scrutchin, and R. C. McCullough
— to defend these men in court.
For five of the indicted blacks, charges
were dismissed. The remaining two, Max Mason and William Miller,
were tried for rape. William Miller was acquitted. Max Mason
was convicted and sentenced to serve seven to thirty years
of the Supreme Court.
Mason appealed his case to the Minnesota
Supreme Court but was unsuccessful. He began his sentence
at Stillwater State Prison in 1921.