Nationally syndicated radio host Tom Joyner will be in town today seeking justice for two relatives executed in Columbia nearly 100 years ago.
Joyner, host of the Dallas-based Tom Joyner Morning Show, heard in the Midlands on FM 101.9, is expected at the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services where he and a group of attorneys will ask for pardons for two of his maternal great uncles, Thomas and Meeks Griffin, whom the state put to death in the electric chair for murder in September 1915.
The Griffins, of Chester County, were convicted along with two other black men in 1913 of murdering wealthy, 73-year-old Confederate veteranJohn Q. Lewis in Blackstock.
Joyner and his attorneys will present evidence to the board of pardons they say raise serious doubt about the Griffins' convictions, including reported claims by a fifth black man, Monk Stevenson, the Griffins' accuser, that he killed Lewis.
Joyner's group points to circumstantial evidence that a married black woman, Anna Davis, with whom Lewis reportedly had a sexual relationship, may have been involved with the murder, along with her husband.
Petitions from several prominent white community members, including a juror, a magistrate and a sheriff, also were presented at the time, defending the Griffin brothers, who were respected farmers in the area with no criminal record.
Joyner's S.C. family was discovered and disclosed in a PBS documentary, "African American Lives 2," on the strength of research by Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Albany Law School professor Paul Finkelman, who appeared in the documentary and also has done extensive research on the Griffins case, will speak at today's hearing. "My assumption is the board of pardons will grant this (request)," Finkelman said Tuesday, "because there is no reason not to."
In a June letter to Gov. Mark Sanford asking for the pardon, Finkelman, Gates and Joyner said their goal is to clear the Griffins' names.
- Roddie Burris