Facing Controversy: Struggling with Capital Punishment in North Carolina

18 November 1942: Paul Green to E.M. Land.

E.M. Land was the prosecuting attorney in the trial of William Mason Wellmon, a black laborer who was convicted and sentenced to die in 1941 for the rape of sixty-seven-year- old white farmer, Cora Sowers. In his defense, Wellmon stated that he was at work on a construction project in nearby Fort Belvoir, Va., at the time of the rape, and that he had proof that he could not have been present (in the form of an envelope for his wages that he had signed that same day at the construction site). In this letter to Prosecuting Attorney Land, Green points out a number of unsettling inconsistencies in the case such as the missing signed envelope and the fact that the victim failed to identify Wellmon from a lineup. Green later convinced Governor J. Melville Broughton to investigate Wellmon's claims of innocence. Wellmon was held in Central Prison for nearly two years before Governor Broughton pardoned him on 15 April 1943.

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(Image from Paul Green Papers, #3693, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

18 November 1942: Paul Green to E.M. Land - Page 3

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