UPDATED – Jeff Sessions helped break the Klan in Alabama

 

Update, thanks to Chris Hall in the comments. In fact, Galanos does credit Sessions with the help he needed to convict and to amass the evidence needed for the civil prosecution. So, while Sessions didn’t do this directly as has been suggested, he does seem to have been central to its success:

“What they need to know is he’s not a racist. I have never heard him even suggest racist comments. Either publicly or privately and I spent a lot of private time with him,” said Galanos, who was the DA in the 1980’s when Sessions was U.S. Attorney.

Galanos said because of Sessions, his office was able to prosecute and eventually execute a KKK member responsible for the vicious murder and hanging of a black teenager, Michael Donald.

“We needed some horsepower, which the feds through Jeff Sessions provided. Specifically we needed the investigative power of the FBI and the power of the federal grand jury. I reached out to him (Sessions) and he responded, tell me what you’ll need and you’ll have it,” said Galanos.

Galanos said in his opinion, it was the first step in the dismemberment of the KKK in Alabama.

“Because after the criminal cases were over, the Southern Poverty Law Center took the evidence we had developed and gave to them and they sued civilly and got a $7 million dollar verdict on behalf of Ms. Donald,” said Galanos.

Read more here.

 

Original post here:

The Weekly Standard ran a piece a couple of days ago about Jeff Sessions, a Trump Administration nominee, and allegations of racism. Far from being a racist, it claimed:

As a U.S. Attorney he filed several cases to desegregate schools in Alabama. And he also prosecuted Klansman Henry Francis Hays, son of Alabama Klan leader Bennie Hays, for abducting and killing Michael Donald, a black teenager selected at random. Sessions insisted on the death penalty for Hays. When he was later elected the state Attorney General, Sessions followed through and made sure Hays was executed. The successful prosecution of Hays also led to a $7 million civil judgment against the Klan, effectively breaking the back of the KKK in Alabama.

This is mainly untrue or misleading.

The claim he desegregated schools came from Sessions himself, in a 2009 interview. he said:

I signed 10 pleadings attacking segregation or the remnants of segregation, where we as part of the Department of Justice, we sought desegregation remedies — the takeover of school systems, redrawing lines — all those things that I was allowed to participate in supporting.

That part, the claim Sessions himself can be traced as having made, seems likely to be true. It would have been easy enough to check, if anyone had felt it worthwhile.

Sessions seems never to have claimed credit for the Hays case. I can’t find him trying to do that in any online sources or archives. So far as I can see, this just comes from the Standard.

Henry Francis Hays was executed in 1997 for the 1981 lynching of 19 year old Michael Donald. Hays’s father was the head of the United Klans of America, reportedly the most vicious of the Klan groups, at the time. Sessions was an U.S. Attorney in Alabama when the lynching took place and his office investigated it, but didn’t prosecute it.

That fell instead to District Attorney Chris Galanos, who urged the judge, Braxton Kittrell Jr., to pass a death sentence. This was slightly complicated:

At the time of the killing, March 21, 1981, Alabama’s death penalty law prohibited a judge from increasing a sentence to death if a jury recommended life imprisonment.

The law was changed later in 1981, but Ed Carnes, Assistant Attorney General in Alabama, has said the earlier statute applied in the Hays case.

Judge Kittrell said, however, that he believed the Legislature intended to allow ”the court itself, and not the jury, to be the final sentencing authority.”

So Galanos and Kittrell deserve the credit, if your views on capital punishment allow you to consider it such, for pressing for and obtaining the highest penalty, even though the jury hadn’t demanded the death sentence.

The $7 million judgement against the Klan is another matter, and the person responsible for that shouldn’t be allowed to be lost in obscurity. She was very remarkable.

She was Michael Donald’s mother.

Jesse Kornbluth wrote this exceptional piece about her. And you should read it.

The bottom line is:

Mrs. Donald’s determination inspired a handful of lawyers and civil rights advocates, black and white. Early in 1984, Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, suggested that Mrs. Donald file a civil suit against the members of Unit 900 and the United Klans of America. The killers were, he believed, carrying out an organizational policy set by the group’s Imperial Wizard, Robert Shelton. If Dees could prove in court that this ”theory of agency” applied, Shelton’s Klan would be as liable for the murder as a corporation is for the actions its employees take in the service of business.

Mrs. Donald and her attorney, State Senator Michael A. Figures, agreed to participate in the civil suit. Last February, an all-white jury in Mobile needed to deliberate only four hours before awarding her $7 million. In May, the Klan turned over the deed to its only significant asset, the $225,000 national headquarters building in Tuscaloosa. Meanwhile, Mrs. Donald’s attorney moved to seize the property and garnish the wages of individual defendants. ”The Klan, at this point, is washed up,” says Henry Hays, from his cell on death row.

But do read the piece in full.

And note too, Mrs Donald’s attorney, Figures, is the main source of the allegations that Sessions has made racist remarks.

  • Nate

    I am glad I am not the only one trying to figure out if these statements are true. I too found that Galanos was the lawyer in the criminal case and Morris Dees and Michael Figures (is that the same Figures?) were the lawyers in the civil case. I find no mention of Sessions. Did Sessions work with any of these lawyers?

    I am also curious to know what measures Sessions has taken to desegregate schools. His education voting record tells a different story. One of not wanting to fund the public school systems.

  • Chris Hall

    This is what Chris Galanos has to say about it: “Galanos said because of Sessions, his office was able to prosecute and eventually execute a KKK member responsible for the vicious murder and hanging of a black teenager, Michael Donald.

    “We needed some horsepower, which the feds through Jeff Sessions provided. Specifically we needed the investigative power of the FBI and the power of the federal grand jury. I reached out to him (Sessions) and he responded, tell me what you’ll need and you’ll have it,” said Galanos.

    Galanos said in his opinion, it was the first step in the dismemberment of the KKK in Alabama.”

    http://local15tv.com/news/local/former-mobile-district-attorney-defends-jeff-sessions

  • Thank you – interesting addition. I’ll update the main post.