The Execution of Lena Baker
March 5, 1945 - It was on this day that an African American housekeeper named Lena Baker was executed in Georgia's electric chair. She had been convicted of killing her white employer, Ernest Knight, but Baker always insisted she had acted in self defense.
At trial, Baker testified she had endured years of physical and sexual abuse from Knight. She asserted that Knight was holding her prisoner and that he told her if she tried to escape he would kill her. Eventually Baker was able to take Knight's gun and shoot him with it.
The all-white jury took less than hour to render its guilty verdict. Baker's court-appointed lawyer filed an appeal, but then walked away from the case.
After a pardon board refused her request for clemency, Baker was sent to the electric chair. Her last words were, "What I done, I did in self-defense. I have nothing against anyone. I'm ready to meet my God."
Over 50 years later her family petitioned the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles for a review of the case. The board granted an unconditional pardon and stated that a manslaughter verdict (approximately 15 years) would have been more appropriate.