Appeals Court Upholds Release of Grand Jury Record in the 1946 "Moore's Ford Lynching" Case- Mass Murders of 2 Black Couples by a White Mob, No One Ever Charged

From [HERE] The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled on Monday that the District Court for the Middle District of Georgia appropriately ordered the release of grand jury records related to the Moore’s Ford Lynching of 1946.

The Moore’s Ford Lynching is considered to be the “last” mass lynching in American history. The Moore’s Ford Lynchings, also known as the 1946 Georgia lynching, refers to the July 25, 1946 mass murders by a white mob of four young African Americans: two married couples — George W. and Mae Murray Dorsey, and Roger and Dorothy Malcom — in Walton County. The couples were dragged from their cars and shot multiple times by a crowd of people. A grand jury was convened in 1946, which included 16 days of witness testimony. However, no one was charged for the murders.

Author Anthony Pitch had petitioned the court to release the grand jury records held at the National Archives in Washington, DC, to help with a book Pitch is writing on the event. The government objected to the release, arguing the court did not have the authority to do so, and historical significance is not sufficient to permit disclosure.

The appeals court found that a district court has an inherit authority to disclose grand jury records when “exceptional circumstances” exist. The exceptional circumstance must result in the need for disclosure exceeding the public interest in secrecy. The court looked at a list of nine factors that can be used for historically significant events to determine if an exceptional circumstance exists.

No defendant in the Moore’s Ford grand jury objected to the disclosure. The disclosure is also sought for a “legitimate, scholarly purpose.” The Moore’s Ford Lynching was also determined to have historical significance due to the ties to the national civil rights movements and ongoing media interest in the event. Due to the amount of time that has passed, the court found that “[t]here is no indication that any witnesses, suspects, or their immediate family members are alive to be intimidated, persecuted, or arrested.”

The district court is required to determine if any portions of the grand jury records should be redacted or omitted.

July 26, 1946 -- Loy Harrison (left), an Oconee County farmer, shows Sheriff J.M. Bond of Oconee County how the mob bound the hands of the two black male victims, George Dorsey and Roger Malcom, together before shooting them and their wives to death near Monroe, Ga., July 25, 1946. Harrison said the mob took the four victims from his car as he was driving to his farm. [   MORE   ]

July 26, 1946 -- Loy Harrison (left), an Oconee County farmer, shows Sheriff J.M. Bond of Oconee County how the mob bound the hands of the two black male victims, George Dorsey and Roger Malcom, together before shooting them and their wives to death near Monroe, Ga., July 25, 1946. Harrison said the mob took the four victims from his car as he was driving to his farm. [MORE]

Tradition says that the murders were committed on Moore's Ford Bridge in Walton and Oconee counties between Monroe and Watkinsville, and they are often referred to as the Moore's Ford lynchings. But the four victims were shot and killed on a dirt road in Walton County near the bridge.

The case attracted national attention and catalyzed large protests in Washington, DC and New York City. President Harry S. Truman created the President's Committee on Civil Rights and his administration introduced anti-lynching legislation in Congress, but could not get it past the Southern Democratic block. The FBI investigated in 1946 but was unable to discover sufficient evidence for the US District Attorney to prosecute anyone. Publicity about the case in the 1990s led to a new investigation starting in 2000 by the FBI and the state. The state of Georgia and the FBI finally closed their cases in December 2017, unable to prosecute any suspect.[1]

The lynching victims have been commemorated by a community memorial service in 1998 and a state highway marker placed in 1999 at the site of the attack in what is the first official recognition of a lynching in the state of Georgia. According to the 2015 report by the Equal Justice Initiative on lynchings in the Southern United States, Georgia has the second-highest number of documented lynchings.