ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota's Board of Pardons has approved a request that could lead to a posthumous pardon for a black man convicted of sexually assaulting a white Duluth woman in 1920.
Max Mason was among a group of black circus workers accused in the assault. Three were lynched from a light pole by an angry mob of local residents. Two others went to trial and Mason was the only one convicted.
His supporters believe he was falsely accused and say a pardon would restore justice in a “horrific and shameful episode in Minnesota history.”
The board's vote Monday could open the door for another review of Mason's original pardon request, which was denied in 1924. Mason died in 1942.
“This is one of those occasions where justice delayed may not be justice denied,” said Attorney General Keith Ellison, one of three members of the board. “I think we can try to rectify the problems of the past.”
Mason was convicted on what some thought was weak evidence. Supporters noted a lack of evidence corroborating the woman's allegation and a physician’s exam that appeared to contradict her claim, according to the Minnesota Historical Society.
The board approved the request to apply for a pardon, the first step in the process. Mason’s advocates will have to submit a full application before the board can formally take up the case, which could happen in the next year, according to the Star Tribune. The board has never granted a posthumous pardon.