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In re Petition of Pitch

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

August 19, 2014

IN RE PETITION OF: ANTHONY S. PITCH.

ORDER

MARC T. TREADWELL, District Judge.

Anthony S. Pitch has petitioned the Court to order the release of "transcripts and related materials of the Moore's Ford Lynching' grand jury convened in Athens, Georgia on December 2, 1946." (Doc. 1 at 1). As discussed below, neither this Court nor the United States Attorney has possession of any documents from the grand jury's investigation into the Moore's Ford lynching. Therefore, the petition is DENIED without prejudice.

Mr. Pitch is a historian researching the July 25, 1946 murder of four African-Americans in Walton County, Georgia. The murders are commonly known as the Moore's Ford lynching. They occurred shortly after the racially charged 1946 Democratic Party gubernatorial primary election, the first Democratic primary in which black citizens were allowed to vote. In that election, former Governor Eugene Talmadge lost the popular vote to progressive James V. Carmichael but crushed Carmichael in the county unit vote.[1] Some believe the murders were directly related to that election.[2]

President Truman ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate the murders, and on December 3, 1946, Middle District Judge T. Hoyt Davis convened a grand jury in Athens to further investigate the murders.[3] According to one account, the FBI interviewed 2, 790 people and the grand jury subpoenaed 106 witnesses. Laura Wexler, Fire in a Canebreak: The Last Mass. Lynching in America 190 (2003). Notwithstanding the breadth of the investigation and the large number of people present at the time of the murders, no witness identified any of the participants and no indictments were returned.

Mr. Pitch asks that the grand jury's records, particularly transcripts, be unsealed. Unfortunately, after a thorough search by the Government, it has been determined that the United States Attorney for the Middle District has no records from the grand jury investigation. The Court has confirmed that this Court does not have possession of any records either. Mr. Pitch has located in the FBI archives some FBI records relating to the FBI's investigation of the Moore's Ford lynching. Also, counsel for Mr. Pitch has provided the Court with some documentation suggesting that grand jury transcripts were forwarded to the FBI in 1946. Although FBI historian John F. Fox, Jr., Ph.D., has informed Mr. Pitch that the FBI does not currently have the transcripts, Dr. Fox has located some records relating to the FBI's investigation. These records apparently are not grand jury records, but Dr. Fox thinks it likely that some of the FBI's documents were not produced in response to Mr. Pitch's Freedom of Information Act request in order to protect grand jury secrecy.

In short, there is no evidence that the grand jury transcripts or any other grand jury records exist. Certainly, they are not in the possession of this Court or the United States Attorney. Accordingly, Mr. Pitch's petition is DISMISSED without prejudice subject to his right to renew this action in the event he discovers that the FBI has located grand jury records relating to the investigation of the Moore's Ford Lynching.

SO ORDERED.


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