On New Year's Eve, 1939, Elmer Rogers and his wife, Marie, were preparing for bed when a shotgun blast sent buckshot deep into Elmer's rib cage. When Marie ran from the room, screaming for help, a second gunshot erupted. The eldest Rogers child grabbed his baby brother and ran while the middle child clung to the bed frame, paralyzed with terror. The intruders poured coal oil around the house and set fire to the front door before escaping. Within a matter of days, investigators identified several suspects: convicts who had been at a craps game with Rogers the night before. Also at the craps game was a young black farmer named W. D. Lyons. As anger at authorities grew, political pressure mounted to find a villain. The governor's representative settled on Lyons, who was arrested, tortured into signing a confession, and tried for the murder. The NAACP's new Legal Defense and Education Fund sent its young chief counsel, Thurgood Marshall, to take part in the trial. The NAACP desperately needed money, and Marshall was convinced that the Lyons case could be a fundraising boon for both the state and national organizations. It was. The case went on to the US Supreme Court, and the NAACP raised much-needed money from the publicity. Conviction is the story of Lyons v. Oklahoma, the oft-forgotten case that set Marshall and the NAACP on the path that led ultimately to victory in Brown v. Board of Education and the accompanying social revolution in the United States.
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