Before there was Olympic thug Ryan Lochte, who lied about being robbed in Rio de Janeiro, white people were notoriously known for either committing crimes and pinning them on fictitious black folks or just blaming them for made-up or heinous crimes committed by someone else, because racism.
Here’s a brief history of black people being blamed for and convicted of crimes they did not commit.
1. The Scottsboro Boys
In 1931 nine black teenagers were accused of raping two white women in Paint Rock, Ala. In those days, rape of a white woman by a black man was punishable by death 9 times out of 10. Eventually, one of the women admitted that she and her friend had made up the rapes, but that didn’t stop one of the grossest and most heinous miscarriages of justice from happening to these men.
Eight of the nine teens were convicted and sentenced to death, but the case was appealed, with charges eventually being dropped for four of the boys. According to reports, In 1936 Haywood Patterson was convicted of rape and sentenced to 75 years in prison. He escaped in 1949 and in 1950 was found in Michigan, but the governor refused to extradite him. In 1951 he was convicted of an assault and sentenced to prison, where he died of cancer in 1952. In 1936 Ozie Powell was involved in an altercation with a guard and shot in the face, suffering permanent brain damage. He pleaded guilty to assault, and the rape charges were dropped. He was paroled in 1946.
In 1937 Charlie Weems was convicted and sentenced to 105 years. He was paroled in 1943 after having been held in prison for a total of 12 years in some of Alabama’s worst institutions. In 1937 Andy Wright was convicted and sentenced to 99 years. He was paroled and returned to prison after violating parole. He was paroled in New York in 1950. In 1937 Clarence Norris was convicted of rape and was the only defendant sentenced to death. Alabama Gov. Bibb Graves commuted his death sentence in 1938 to life. Given parole in 1946, he went into hiding. In 1976 he was found in Brooklyn, N.Y. Alabama Gov. George Wallace pardoned him that year, declaring him “not guilty.” Norris published an autobiography, The Last of the Scottsboro Boys, in 1979. He died of Alzheimer’s disease on Jan. 23, 1989.
In 1937 the state of Alabama dropped all charges against Willie Roberson, Olen Montgomery, Eugene Williams and Roy Wright, who had already been in prison for six years. Wright had a career in the U.S. Army and Merchant Marine. In 1959, believing that his wife had been unfaithful during his tour, he shot and killed her and fatally shot himself. In 2013 Alabama issued posthumous pardons for Patterson, Weems and Andy Wright. Was justice served? No! The Scottsboro case is considered a landmark case in ending the systematic exclusion of blacks from juries.
2. George Stinney
George Stinney was killed by electric chair in 1944 after being accused and convicted of murdering two preteen white girls by an all-white jury in South Carolina. This case was an extremely sad one, since George was 14 years old when executed, making him the youngest person to be executed in the U.S. in the 20th century. There was no evidence linking George to the case, other than a circumstantial detail that he’d spoken with the girls before their murder. Three police officers claimed that George confessed to the murders.
On Dec. 17, 2014, George’s conviction was vacated by Circuit Court Judge Carmen Mullen, effectively clearing his name. Too little, too late.
3. Charles Stuart
In 1989 in Boston, Charles Stuart alleged that his wife, Carol DiMaiti, and unborn child were shot and killed by a black man. Stuart told authorities that when he and his wife were coming home from a birthing class at a local hospital in Boston, they lost their way and ended up in a “dangerous part of town” near a black housing project. He said that while they were looking for a way out, they were attacked by a black man who came out of nowhere and fatally shot his pregnant wife and wounded Stuart.
The police sought out black men whom they then questioned and raided their homes, finally arresting William Bennett. Shortly thereafter, however, Stuart’s brother Matthew Stuart confessed to police that Charles Stuart had committed the crime to collect life insurance, and upon being convicted for his wife and unborn child’s murder, Charles Stuart committed suicide.
4. The Central Park Five
Five black and Hispanic boys ages 14-16 were convicted of the 1989 assault and rape of Trisha Meili, a white woman who was jogging in New York City’s Central Park. These boys were convicted because of coerced confessions and faulty scientific evidence. They were convicted of most charges by juries in two separate trials in 1990 and received sentences ranging from five to 15 years. Four of the convictions were appealed; they were affirmed by appellate courts. The defendants—Kharey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Raymond Santana Jr.—spent between six and 13 years in prison.
The convictions were vacated in 2002 when Matias Reyes, a convicted rapist and murderer serving a life sentence for other crimes, confessed to committing the crime alone and DNA evidence confirmed his involvement in the rape.
5. Susan Smith
In 1994 Susan Smith claimed that she’d been carjacked in South Carolina by a black man who drove away with her two young sons (ages 3 years old and 14 months). For nine days, she made dramatic pleas on national television for their rescue.
According to reports, the intensive investigation and nationwide search put the fear of God in Smith and she ended up confessing to letting her 1990 Mazda Protegé roll into nearby John D. Long Lake in Union, S.C., drowning her kids inside. She was sentenced to life in prison for their murders. Smith will be eligible for parole on Nov. 4, 2024, after serving a minimum of 30 years.
6. Amanda Knox
In 2007 Amanda Knox was accused of murdering her roommate, Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. Naturally, she was like, “Uh uh, not me!” and blamed Diya “Patrick” Lumumba, her boss, and Lumumba was arrested. Lumumba is a Congolese-born resident of Italy who owned Le Chic, a bar in Perugia where Knox worked part time. Didn’t Knox know she wasn’t supposed to bite the hand that fed her? I guess it was easy to blame her boss because … melanin.
Knox told Italian police in a written statement that she saw Lumumba enter Kercher’s room on the evening of Nov. 1, 2007. She later admitted that this version of events was made up, but she implied that it was made up because the police forced her to say it. Girl, bye. Lumumba spent two weeks in an Italian jail before Knox’s story came tumbling down because Lumumba had an alibi.
Here’s the thing—Lumumba wasn’t the only black person blamed for this heinous crime. Rudy Guede, a black man convicted in 2008, is serving a 16-year sentence for Kercher’s death. Knox and then-boyfriend Rafaelle Sollecito were put on trial four times for the murder, serving four years in prison through convictions and appeals until they were exonerated March of 2015. You know who wasn’t? Guede. Guede, who maintains his innocence, was convicted after his DNA was found on Kercher’s body and his footprints were seen in her blood.
7. Bethanny Storro
In 2010 Bethanny Storro claimed that she was attacked outside a Vancouver, Wash., coffee shop by a black woman who approached her and asked her whether she wanted something to drink. She claimed the woman said, “Hey, pretty girl,” and then threw a cup of acid in her face, disfiguring her. Police went on to investigate and started to think that Storro wasn’t telling the truth. And she wasn’t.
After Storro held a news conference shortly after surgery, with her head wrapped in gauze, she was booked as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, but she canceled the appearance after Oprah’s staff did some digging and things weren’t adding up.
In 2013, in an exclusive interview with ABC News, Storro discussed how she used the acid on herself in a failed suicide attempt because of a then-undiagnosed mental illness called body dysmorphic disorder. The illness causes an obsession with minor or imagined physical flaws. She admitted that when she was a national story, she felt that she “mattered.” She said, “In that moment I felt like I was cared for and I mattered.” She also claimed that she didn’t mean to blame it on anyone else. Right.
There are certainly other cases similar to those described here, but these are some of the more notorious ones. Why do we live in a world where this is still OK?