Pardon John Snowden

Anne Arundel: Governor should take posthumous action in Maryland's last hanging execution.

May 26, 2000

JOHN SNOWDEN didn't ask for forgiveness. He asked for more than that. An African-American accused of killing a pregnant white woman, he asked people to believe that he didn't do it. He asked the jury that convicted him in a racially charged, controversial trial. And he asked the throng that watched him drop four feet to his death, the last person to die on Anne Arundel County's gallows.

Snowden didn't get what he wanted and never will, even in death. His conviction will stand.

But his advocates are seeking the next best thing to a proclamation of innocence. They want Gov. Parris N. Glendening to issue him a posthumous, gubernatorial pardon. The pardon would, in essence, acknowledge that Snowden's conviction was unfair and, quite possibly, wrong.

The case against him troubled Annapolitans 83 years ago and does to this day.

Lottie Mae Brandon was bludgeoned to death on Aug. 8, 1917. She may have been sexually assaulted, but nothing was stolen from her home. Police first suspected her next-door neighbors because one of them had taken a liking to Ms. Brandon, a married woman. Witnesses changed their testimony. Snowden was fingered five days after the killing as a man who had been seen nearby that day. Police tried to beat a confession out of him and threatened to kill him, but he maintained that he was not guilty. His last words on the gallows were "I am innocent."

Snowden's death came during a period when hangings of black men in Southern states were carried out both by the law and by lynch mobs.

Governor Glendening should pardon Snowden to acknowledge that Maryland shared in the injustices against black men, although not nearly to the degree of Deep South states. Unfortunately, the governor's predecessor turned down a similar pardon request a decade ago. But a group of Annapolitans ask again. It's his opportunity to finally bring forgiveness to Snowden and Maryland.

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