Historical posthumous pardon hearing held in case of Joe James

In April 2023, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board will review a petition for posthumous clemency filed by attorneys with the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project (CRRJ) and Northwestern School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC) on behalf of Joe James.

Mr. James was nineteen years old when he was accused of the murder of Clergy Ballard, a white man, and the attempted assault of Ballard’s sixteen-year-old daughter. Joe James was sentenced to death by an all-white jury in Springfield, Illinois in 1908 after a trial held in the wake of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot.

“Throughout history, we have seen white juries not only convict and execute Black men and women on scant evidence but acquit whites who murder Black people in the face of overwhelming evidence of guilt,” said Distinguished Professor of Law Margaret Burnham, a civil rights lawyer, author and founding director of CRRJ. “This double standard operated in Springfield in 1908, infecting Springfield’s criminal justice system and depriving Joe James of a fair trial.” Burnham added that the James case “is particularly significant because it played a pivotal role in the formative years of the NAACP.”

View the news announcement here.

To read Joe James’s Petition for Executive Clemency, click here.

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