Service to honor executed man planned 
By BRIAN M. SCHLETER, Staff Writer

 Activists seeking a pardon for an Annapolis man hanged in 1919 for a murder they believe he did not commit will hold a memorial service next month to mark his 110th birthday. 

More than 1,000 people have been invited to attend a June 10 service at Brewer Hill Cemetery in Annapolis, where John Snowden was laid to rest after being executed. 

Carl Snowden, a top aide to County Executive Janet S. Owens, has asked Gov. Parris N. Glendening to posthumously pardon the African-American ice wagon operator. 

Mr. Snowden, who is not related to the executed man, said he's expecting an answer soon. 

A spokesman for the governor said no decision has been made as the investigation is still ongoing. 

Snowden was convicted in 1918 of brutally raping and killing Lottie May Brandon, a pregnant 20-year-old white woman, in her Lafayette Street home. He maintained his innocence until his death. 

But the crime sparked a racially charged outcry, which eventually forced Gov. Emerson Harrington to call out the National Guard to preserve order. 

Local African-American community leaders, an amateur historian and at least one descendant of the dead man believe enough evidence has come to light to suggest Snowden may have been innocent. 

"Anyone who believes in justice is invited to come (to the ceremony)," said Laura Parker, a member of the ad hoc committee formed to organize the service. 

Following Snowden's conviction, two key witnesses recanted testimony putting him at the scene of the crime, and 11 of the 12 jurors who convicted him signed a petition to Harrington asking him to commute Snowden's death sentence, but he refused. 

Shortly after Snowden's death, an anonymous letter was published in The Capital in which the writer claimed to have committed the murder. 

"We look for justice and fairness, that the families will be able to clear their names of this indemnity," said the Rev. Victor Johnson, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church. 

"I feel, based on what I read and my feelings in my heart, that my uncle is innocent," said Hazel Snowden of Lanham, a descendant of Snowden. 

The Maryland Parole Commission is investigating the matter. In a letter sent to Carl Snowden last month, Chairman Patricia K. Cushwa said her office has received numerous letters supporting the pardon request, and she expects to make a recommendation to Mr. Glendening soon. 

"Gov. Glendening is being made personally aware of the mitigating circumstances in this case," she wrote. "You may be certain that this case will be reviewed on all of its merits and all claims of injustice will be thoroughly investigated." 

The one-hour memorial service will begin at 2 p.m. June 10 at the cemetery on West Street. 

The keynote speaker will be Leroy Philips Jr., whose book "Contempt of Court" helped to exonerate a Chattanooga, Tenn., African-American man also hanged for murder. 

A bronze plaque commemorating Snowden's life will be unveiled, said George Phelps Jr., president of the Brewer Hill Cemetery Association. 

In case of rain, the event will be held at the Asbury United Methodist Church at 87 West St. The public is invited, and donations to offset the $5,000 cost of the program are being accepted by the church, the Rev. Johnson said. 

Those attending are encouraged to park at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts and catch a shuttle to the cemetery. 

Published May 24, 2000, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Copyright © 2000 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.