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On November 15, 1923, Mamie Snow, a mentally disabled white woman from Waukegan, Illinois, claims that James Montgomery, a black veteran, and area resident raped her. Montgomery, who was promptly thrown in jail, spent more than 25 years in prison before his conviction was overturned and he was released.
From the start, Montgomery's trial seemed ill fated. During the proceedings local Ku Klux Klan members threatened Montgomery's lawyer, and, in a trial that took less than a day, Montgomery was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. While serving time, Montgomery studied the law in an attempt to prove his innocence. In 1946, he convinced civil rights attorney Luis Kutner to investigate his case. Kutner discovered a medical report from Snow's medical evaluation revealing that not only was Snow never raped, she was likely a virgin. Kutner also located additional evidence suggesting that the Klan had framed Montgomery and that prosecutors had withheld the medical evidence from the defense. Nonetheless, it took Kutner three more years to have the unjust conviction overturned. Montgomery was finally released in August 1949.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: