VIRGINIA: IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE INRE: JOHN HENRY JAMES CASE NO.:
Comes now the Commonwealth’s Attorney, James Hingeley, and presents the following motion, saying as follows:
- On July 11, 1898 an African American man, John Henry James, was accused of assaulting a white woman, Julia Hotopp, in Albemarle County. The Commonwealth believes this was a false accusation.
- Following his arrest, John Henry James was placed into custody at the Albemarle County jail, but then was transferred to a jail in Staunton to protect him from a mob that was forming around the Albemarle County jail.
- On July 12, 1898 John Henry James was on a train returning from Staunton to Albemarle County when an armed and unmasked mob of white men seized Mr. James by storming the train when it slowed for a scheduled stop at Wood’s Crossing in Albemarle County.
- John Henry James was taken from the train and hanged from a nearby locust tree. After his death, the lynch mob fired dozens of bullets into Mr. James’ body. There were published reports that Mr. James professed his innocence while he was being murdered.
- At the time John Henry James was being lynched, a grand jury was meeting in Albemarle County Circuit Court to consider indicting Mr. James on the charge of assaulting Julia Hotopp. Micajah Woods, the Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney, presented evidence to the grand jury.
- Despite having learned of the death of John Henry James while they were meeting, the grand jury proceeded to return a posthumous indictment charging Mr. James with rape. The indictment is attached hereto, marked as Exhibit 1.
- The indictment presented in these circumstances should be without legal effect. Nevertheless, the indictment has remained in the court record, where it stands as an official, but wholly unjust, accusation of John Henry James.
- No action of this Court can undo the injustice of the racial terror lynching that took place in Albemarle County 125 years ago, but this Court can and should purge the record that unjustly gives official credence to the charge against John Henry James.
- No action of this Court can make amends for the failures of the Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Micajah Woods, and the Albemarle County Sheriff, Lucien
- Watts, (who was present at the lynching and could have identified people in the mob), to bring charges against the perpetrators. The perpetrators of this racial terror lynching acted with impunity because they knew that the Albemarle County authorities would not hold them accountable.
- It is in the interest of justice, healing, and restoration for the Court to make an accounting on the record disavowing the actions that caused the death of John Henry James on July 12, 1898 and acknowledging the complicity of those law enforcement officials who countenanced the racial terror lynching in Albemarle County.
- The jurisdiction of this Court is invoked under Va. Code § 17.1-513 providing that Circuit Courts shall “have original jurisdiction of all indictments for felonies.”
WHEREFORE, the Commonwealth moves this honorable Court 1) to consider such evidence as may be heard in open Court on July 12, 2023 at 4:00 p.m., 2) to strike the indictment of John Henry James from the record, and 3) to grant such other and further relief as may be appropriate.
Please note that a hearing on the motion is scheduled in Albemarle County Circuit Court on Wednesday, July 12, at 4:00 p.m., and I am hoping NAACP members will be interested in attending. July 12, 2023 is the 125th anniversary of the lynching of John Henry James. //Jim Hingeley j
410 East High Street
Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 972-4073 fax