Before she was executed in Georgia on March 5, 1945, Lena Baker pleaded self defense. Sixty years later, the Georgia Board of Pardons will pardon the only woman the state executed in the 20th century, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A 1945 parole board’s decision to deny Baker clemency was “a grievous error, as this case called out for mercy,” the pardon signed by all five current board members said.
The pardon does not declare Baker’s innocence but suggests she “could have been charged with voluntary manslaughter, rather than murder, for the death of E.B. Knight.” Baker was black, Knight was white. The two often drank together and had a sexual relationship that caused neighbors to complain in those days of segregation, says the newspaper. Garland Hunt, parole board vice chairman, said, “We just felt that this was a situation that was unique.” Baker’s posthumous pardon is only the board’s third such act in its 62-year history.