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Alabama Law Review

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This article focuses on two habeas corpus cases of ongoing importance, Frank v. Magnum, 237 U.S. 309 (1915), and Moore v. Dempsey, 261 U.S. 86 (1923). In both cases, defendants who had been sentenced to death in Southern state courtrooms surrounded by hostile mobs brought habeas corpus petitions to the federal courts, and pressed due process claims upon the Supreme Court. But the outcomes were entirely different. The Court refused to intervene in the first case (which resulted in the lynching of an innocent Jew), but granted relief in the second (which resulted in the release of innocent Blacks) - asserting all the while that there was no inconsistency between the two decisions.

Both cases arose out of significant national events (the Leo Frank murder trial in one instance, and massive race riots in Elaine County, Arkansas, in the other), and continue to be the subject of conflicting interpretations by those who support broad habeas review (who argue that Moore overruled Frank) and those who oppose it (who argue that the cases are consistent).

My own, rather novel, position is that the cases are consistent but support broad habeas corpus review. This conclusion is based on numerous primary sources, such as draft opinions and Justices' papers, whose publication will, I hope, serve to enrich the ongoing debate over these cases by scholars in both law and history.



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