Southeastern Section - 68th Annual Meeting - 2019

Paper No. 14-9
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM


ISPHORDING, Wayne C., Emeritus Professor, Earth Sciences, University of South Alabama, Mobile, 36608

Michael Donald, a 19 year old black male was randomly abducted in downtown Mobile, Alabama on October 17, 1981 and taken across Mobile Bay to a site where he was beaten and murdered. His body was brought back to Mobile and hung from a tree. His death has been termed as the “last documented lynching in America.” Three Ku Klux Clan members were subsequently arrested and found guilty of capital murder. One of those, Francis Hayes, son of the Grand Kleagal of the Alabama KKK, was executed in 1983 and the other two are now serving life sentences for the crime. Notwithstanding the fact that Hayes was “thrown under the bus” and identified as the perpetrator by the other two, it is ironic that all three were nearly successful in having major evidence presented by the prosecution completely discredited by the defense. The chief witness for the prosecution erred grievously in his statistical analysis of soil and clothing chemical data that he argued linked the three men directly to the crime scene. He was further shown to have used an incorrect chemical procedure in his analysis of samples. While the use of correct statistical analysis and information from heavy mineral and clay mineral analysis, as well as pollen analysis, could have tied all three to the crime scene, this was not used by the prosecution. Fortunately, “justice was served” and Donald’s mother, in 1987, successfully sued the KKK and was awarded 7 million dollars in damages and all physical property owned by the Klan in Alabama, effectively bankrupting the organization.