This undated file photo shows Willie Francis holding a calendar
with the date of May 9 circled.
A first attempt to execute Willie
Francis in 1946 by electrocution in Louisiana did not work.
Francis was executed by electric chair in Louisiana in 1947, a year after
the first attempt
didn't work, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling
that said a second try was constitutional.
Bertrand DeBlanc agreed to take Willie’s case, despite the fact
that the victim,
Andrew Thomas, was one of DeBlanc’s best friends
Judge James Dudley Simon presided over the twelve Cajun jurors
who convicted Willie
of murder after a deliberation of just fifteen
minutes. Simon is pictured here
with the actress Delores Del Rio
during the filming of Evangeline.
District Attorney L.O. Pecot and Sheriff E.L. Resweber
The only black lawyer in Louisiana, A. P. Tureaud
national attention to Willie’s case
Tortured by his vote to allow Louisiana to send Willie to the
chair a second time,
Felix Frankfurter worked behind the scenes to
save Willie’s life
St. Martinville Jail: On May 3, 1946, townsfolk climbed the trees
and perched on the fence,
hoping to get
a final glimpse at Willie
Francis. In a room not much larger than a “tennis
table” on the
witnesses watched as Willie was strapped into Gruesome
Gertie for what he thought would be his last day on earth.
Gruesome Gertie: Louisiana’s portable electric chair, gasoline
engine and switchboard.
parish to parish in this
truck, Gruesome Gertie ended the lives
of eighty-six men and one