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Black woman pardoned 60 years after execution

Lena Baker
Lena Baker

ALBANY, Ga. (AP) — The only woman ever executed in Georgia's electric chair is being granted a posthumous pardon, 60 years after the black maid was put to death for killing a white man she claimed held her in slavery and threatened her life.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has decided to pardon Lena Baker and plans to present a proclamation to her descendants at its Aug. 30 meeting in Atlanta, board spokeswoman Scheree Lipscomb said Monday.

The board did not find Baker innocent of the crime, Lipscomb said. Members instead found the decision to deny her clemency in 1945 "was a grievous error, as this case called out for mercy," Lipscomb said.

Baker was sentenced to die following a one-day trial before an all-white, all-male jury in Georgia.

"I believe she's somewhere around God's throne and can look down and smile," said Baker's grandnephew, Roosevelt Curry, who has led the family's effort to clear her name.

During her brief trial, Baker testified that E.B. Knight, a man she had been hired to care for, held her against her will in a grist mill and threatened to shoot her if she tried to leave. She said she grabbed Knight's gun and shot him when he raised a metal bar to strike her.