Minnesota Grants Posthumous Pardon To Black Man In Century-Old Lynching Case

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Varun Hukeri General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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Minnesota’s Board of Pardons voted unanimously Friday to pardon Max Mason, a black man who was falsely accused and convicted of raping a white woman in 1920. The case also included the infamous lynching of three black men in the city of Duluth.

Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who is a member of the pardons board, called the move “100 years overdue” and said the century-old case dispels the notion that lynchings “happened (only) in the Southern states,” the Associated Press reported. Attorney General Keith Ellison and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Lori Skjerven Gildea are the board’s two other members.

ST PAUL, MINNESOTA - JUNE 03: Minnesota Governor Tim Walz speaks to the press on June 3, 2020 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Earlier today the state's Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter had been filed against former Minneapolis police officers Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao in the death of George Floyd. Ellison also announced that charges against former officer Derek Chauvin were upgraded to second-degree murder. On May 25, Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck for nine minutes while detaining him on suspicion of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd went unconscious and died at the scene. The other officer were part of the responding team. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz speaks to the press June 3, 2020 in St. Paul (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The allegations came from 19-year-old Irene Tusken and her boyfriend in June 1920, who claimed that six workers at the local circus raped Tusken at gunpoint. Mason and several other circus workers were arrested, despite the fact that Tusken’s own doctor found no evidence of sexual assault.

The case took a turn for the worst when three of the arrested workers — Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie — were dragged from their cells and lynched by a white mob June 15.

The City of Duluth apologized for the lynching in 2003 and dedicated a memorial in honor of the victims. Speaking about the lynchings, Ellison said in February that “the pain associated with it has not been healed and it’s reflected in the disparities.”

Mason was denied parole six times between 1922 and 1925, and was finally released in 1925 on the condition that he not return to the state for 16 years, according to the pardon application. Jerry Blackwell, the attorney who submitted the application, stated that the entirety of Mason’s case “was tainted and fairly characterized as racist and racially biased.”

One of the key supporters of the pardon was Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken, one of Irene Tusken’s grandnephews. He referred to the case as an “abomination” and a “disgrace to the police profession,” urging the pardons board to accept the application, CBS News reported.

After Mason’s pardon was granted, Walz stated that there was a direct connection between the 1920 case and “what happened to George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis.” (RELATED: Terrence Floyd, Brother Of George Floyd, Says ‘I’m Proud Of The Protests, But I’m Not Proud Of The Destruction’)

The state was home to George Floyd, who died in police custody May 25 in an incident that sparked nationwide protests against police brutality.