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On December 9, 1938, the state of Georgia executed six black men in 81 minutes in Tattnall prison's electric chair. At the time the executions were a record. The new prison, built with funds from FDR's New Deal, as well as the fact that the men were tried and executed rather than lynched were thought to be a sign of progress. They were anything but. While those men were arrested, convicted, sentenced, and executed without appeal in as little as eight weeks, E. D. Rivers, the Governor of the state, oversaw a pardon racket for white killers, the Ku Klux Klan's infiltration of his administration, and the bankrupting of the state. Race and wealth were all that determined whether or not these men lived or died. There was no progress. There was no justice.
David Beasley's Without Mercy is the harrowing true story of The Great Depression, The New Deal, and the violent death throes of the Klan, but most of all it is the story of the stunning injustice of these executions and how they have seared distrust of the legal system into the consciousness of the Deep South. It is a story that will forever be a testament to the death penalty's appalling racial inequality that continues to plague our nation.
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