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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on Tuesday granted posthumous pardons to seven black men who were executed in 1951 for the rape of a white woman, in a case that has prompted requests for clemency around the world and in recent years. was denounced as an example of racial disparity in the application of the death penalty.

The “Martinsville Seven”, as the men became known, were all convicted of raping Ruby Stroud Floyd, 32, a white woman who had traveled to a predominantly black neighborhood of Martinsville, Va., On January 8, 1949, to collect money for the clothes she had sold.

Four of the men were executed in Virginia’s electric chair on February 2, 1951. Three days later, the other three were also electrocuted. At the time, rape was a capital crime.

In December, lawyers and the men’s descendants asked Northam to grant posthumous pardons. Their petition does not claim that the men were innocent, but claims that their trials were unfair and the punishment was extreme and unfair.

“The Martinsville Seven were not given due due process” just because they were black “, they were sentenced to death for a crime for which a white person would not have been executed for” simply because they were black. ‘they were black’, and they were killed by the Commonwealth., ‘just for being black’, ”the defenders wrote in their letter to Northam.

Seven decades after the executions, Northam met their descendants in a state office building, where he told them he would grant pardons. A public announcement was scheduled after the meeting.

The seven men, most in their late teens or early twenties, were: Francis DeSales Grayson, Frank Hairston Jr.; Howard Lee Hairston; James Luther Hairston; Joe Henry Hampton; Booker Millner; and John Clabon Taylor.

In March, Northam, a Democrat, signed a law passed by the Democrat-controlled legislature abolishing the state’s death penalty. It was a sea change for Virginia, a state that recorded the second highest number of executions in the United States. The Martinsville Seven case was cited during the legislative debate as an example of the disproportionate use of the death penalty against people of color.

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