Georgia Grants a Pardon to Black Maid Executed in ’45
Six decades after she was executed for killing a white man, a black maid was granted a full and unconditional pardon Tuesday.
Lena Baker, 44, the only woman put to death in Georgia’s electric chair, had maintained until she was put to death in 1945 that she shot E.B. Knight in self-defense.
Members of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles read a proclamation saying the board’s refusal to grant clemency before the execution was “a grievous error, as this case called out for mercy.”
Members of Baker’s family expressed gratitude for those who worked to clear her name.
“This was not a white or black issue,” said Charles McElveen, Baker’s great-great-nephew. “It was an issue of right or wrong.”
During her trial, Baker testified that Knight, 67, a man she had been hired to care for, held her against her will and threatened to shoot her if she tried to leave. She said she grabbed his gun and shot him when he raised a metal bar to strike her.
Because the all-white, all-male jury did not recommend mercy, the sentence of death by electrocution was required by state law at the time. Baker was executed March 5, 1945.