Peerless explains how Charles Wakefield’s jury came together and the disconnect between the jury that sent him to Death Row and the peers he knew before his conviction. For more, read the show notes or listen to the episode above.
When prosecutors and Charles Wakefield Jr.’s defense attorneys picked the jury for the trial, they began with 31 jurors.
Judge Frank Eppes disqualified four jurors because they said they didn’t believe in the death penalty and would never consider it as a punishment. Under the law, a juror’s refusal to consider capital punishment disqualified him or her to serve on a jury in which the death penalty was a possible punishment.
Here’s a quick review of each of the 31 potential jurors.
Judge Eppes disqualified Roddy, Smith, Miller, and White because they refused to consider capital punishment as an option for punishment. He excused Peggy Carr because she had two children whose care for which she was responsible.
After seating the jury and hearing an afternoon of testimony, Eppes also excused Elizabeth Mitchell, 54, after she left her court-ordered sequestration to look after her dogs.
Wakefield’s defense attorneys used their strikes to dismiss 11 jurors.
Map showing jurors’ homes in relation to traditionally black neighborhoods in Greenville
Prosecutor Billy Wilkins dismissed two jurors, Margaret Holloway and Leroy Pyles. Holloway initially said she didn’t believe in the death penalty, but upon further questioning said she would consider it. Pyles initially struggled to understand Judge Eppes’ questions, and Solicitor Wilkins excused him.
Pyles was the only qualified juror who was also black.
Ultimately, Judge Eppes seated 13 jurors (12 jurors and an alternate). After Eppes excused Mitchell to take care of her dogs, the jury was made up of six white men and six white women.
In the graphic below, you’ll find their names and ages.
In 1947, Greenville attempted to prosecute 31 men, most of them cab drivers, for the lynching of Willie Earle.
Earle had been accused of killing Thomas Watson Brown. Within 24 hours of Earle’s arrest, dozens of men snatched him from the Pickens County Jail and killed him.
In a high-profile trial, a jury acquitted all 31 defendants.
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Peerless reveals how the jury in the Charles Wakefield, Jr. trial came together and discusses the racial dynamics of Greenville, South Carolina, in 1976.
Wakefield and his family discuss their lives prior to Wakefield’s arrest and conviction.
Greenville city leaders and historians explain the city’s past and future.