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What Coretta Scott King's opposition letter from 1986 said about Jeff Sessions

On the Senate floor Tuesday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren was prevented from reading Coretta Scott King's 1986 opposition letter to Jeff Sessions' nomination for a federal judgeship. Here's how some of that letter breaks down.

“The actions taken by Mr. Sessions in regards to the 1984 voting fraud prosecutions represent just one more technique used to intimidate black voters and thus deny them this most precious franchise.”

King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., penned a letter opposing the nomination of Sessions, then the U.S. attorney in Mobile, Ala., to a seat on the federal bench. She cited a voter fraud case that Sessions oversaw in 1984 against three Perry County Civic League members in Marion, Ala., who helped blacks register to vote.

The defendants, who would come to be known as the Marion Three, were Allen Turner, who had marched from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., with Martin Luther King Jr. at the height of the civil rights movement; Turner's wife, Evelyn; and activist Spencer Hogue.

"The investigations into the absentee voting process were conducted only in the Black Belt counties where blacks had finally achieved political power in the local government."

The Marion Three were accused of tampering with ballots of black voters before a primary election in 1984.

"Whites had been using the absentee process to their advantage for years, without incident. Then, when blacks, realizing its strength, began to use it with success, criminal investigations were begun."

The Marion Three said that after the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, they began teaching black voters how to cast absentee ballots. Hogue and the Turners said they assisted mostly elderly voters who could not physically go to the polls. They additionally aided illiterate voters, and said they altered ballots only with voters' permission.

"Mr. Sessions sought to punish older black civil rights activists, advisors and colleagues of my husband, who had been key figures in the civil rights movement in the 1960s."

The Marion Three were indicted on 29 counts of mail fraud. Sessions said the case began after local officials complained of voter fraud in Perry County, one of Alabama's smallest counties. Ultimately, a jury of seven blacks and five whites acquitted them.

"Witnesses who did testify were pressured and intimidated into submitting the 'correct' testimony."

Some witnesses who had originally told the FBI that their ballots were altered without approval changed their testimonies during trial.

"These voters, and others, have announced they are now never going to vote again."

At least two witnesses reportedly said they would not vote.

Read the full letter here.

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