Batson [Laws I10]
DESCRIPTION: Batson has worked for Mr. Earle for years without being properly paid. At last he murders Earle. He is arrested and sentenced to die. Much of the ballad is devoted to details of Batson's hanging and his conversations while in prison
EARLIEST DATE: 1934 (Lomax collection)
KEYWORDS: homicide gallows-confession execution
FOUND IN: US(So)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Laws I10, "Batson"
Lomax-Singing, pp. 335-341, "Batson" (1 text, 1 tune)
cf. "Lamkin" [Child 93] (plot)
NOTES: As far as I know, [Batson] has been collected, in anything resembling complete form, only once, in Lafayette, LA, in 1934, by Lomax, from "Stavin' Chain"
(Wilson Jones). Jones said it was based on a crime that happened near Lake Charles, LA, but Lomax's inquiries failed to confirm the story.
Nearly ten years earlier, Gordon had received three verses from two informants and had briefly looked into the factual history, sufficient to establish that the ballad is based on a crime committed near Lake Charles, LA, in 1902 and the subsequent conviction and execution, by hanging, of Albert "Ed" Batson, age 22, a hired hand on the farm of one of the victims, Ward Earll. Batson was from Spickard, Grundy County, MO.
A book written about the crime in 1903 argued that Batson's conviction on purely circumstantial evidence was probably wrong and that other leads should have been investigated. The book also states that there was high prejudice against Batson and that local citizens who swore that they could be fair jurors also made statements indicating that they were convinced of his guilt. A motion for a change of venue was denied in the face of substantial indications that Batson could not get a fair trial in the venue of the crime.
I have now made contact with relatives of Ed Batson. They know about his case, and they believe him to have been innocent. They tell of a statement clearing Ed, made many years after the murder and trial by a "colored man" who had been afraid to come forward at the time. - JG
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