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Beaulah Mae Donald v. United Klans of America Inc. et al: 1987

Klansmen Plot Racial Revenge Murder

While the felony to which Knowles confessed was a federal crime, the ensuing murder charge against Hays was prosecuted as a state crime. He pleaded innocent. During Hays' trial, Knowles testified that the killing was planned to avenge a white police officer killed after a Birmingham bank robbery. Knowles and Hays assumed that a predominantly black jury would not convict a black defendant in the Birmingham case. With the approval and assistance of Hays' father Bennie, Frank Cox, Thaddeus Betancourt, and Teddy Kyzar—all members of the United Klans of America—Knowles and Hays planned to kill a randomly selected black person and burn a cross at the Mobile County Courthouse in a symbolic act of Klan strength. To establish alibis, the group threw a party the night the Birmingham case went to the jury. When news of a hung jury was announced on television, Knowles and Hayes slipped away and abducted Donald, whom they found walking alone on a dark street.

Knowles was sentenced to 10 years to life imprisonment for his part in the killing. Henry Hays was convicted of murder on December 10, 1983, and sentenced by the jury to life imprisonment without parole. The jury's sentence was overruled by Judge Braxton Kittrell Jr., who condemned Hays to be electrocuted, making him the second white man in Alabama history to be sentenced to death for killing a black victim.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988Beaulah Mae Donald v. United Klans of America Inc. et al: 1987 - Klansmen Plot Racial Revenge Murder, Civil Suit Goes After Klan, Klan's Violent History Traced