South Carolina officials on Wednesday refused to pardon a black man executed a century ago for the death of a white shopkeeper, but supporters said they might be willing to renew the request next year.
The Probation, Parole and Pardon Services board voted 3-3 on the request to grant a posthumous pardon to Daniel "Nealy" Duncan. Five members would have had to approve the pardon for it to be granted.
Investigators questioned a half-dozen black men but couldn't find a suspect in the death of Max Lubelsky, a shopkeeper killed in his store on downtown Charleston's King Street in 1910. The Evening Post newspaper proclaimed it "the most dastardly and sensational crime that has happened in Charleston in several years."
Two weeks after the killing, Lubelsky's widow was attacked in the same store, and two white men quickly grabbed Duncan, who was walking on the street nearby as the woman staggered out. Duncan had a severe speech impediment, which no one who fingered him as the killer pointed out. There was no physical evidence, but Duncan was convicted in about an hour and hanged nine months later, in 1911.
After moving back to South Carolina from New York, former CBS news producer Batt Humphreys said he became intrigued by Duncan's story and began to believe the young man had been railroaded by Jim Crow-era police hungry to pin the crime on a black man. Humphreys delved into trial transcripts, becoming increasingly convinced that Duncan's case deserved a second look.