Louis Stapleton

Background

Louis Stapleton, 42, resided in Chicago. Visiting Clarksdale for a funeral, he was arrested and charged with drunk driving and possession of a weapon, a fountain-pen type pistol. Sentenced to thirty days in the county jail, he was assigned to work on a road gang. On August 2, he got sick and was beaten and forced to work by Pat Williams, the overseer of the gang. Williams was employed by the County Board of Supervisors which operated the road gang on behalf of the County. On August 5, Stapleton was beaten a second time after falling ill. This time he could not stand up and remained unconscious in the ditch where he had been working for over an hour. He succumbed to his injuries when he was returned to the jail. Pictures of Stapleton’s body became public in Chicago when he was returned there for burial. The beatings were severe enough to leave marks across his back and pull the flesh off his buttocks.

Shortly before Stapleton’s death, Aaron Henry complained that anyone with an “Illinois, New York or a Michigan license plate is an invitation to insult by the highway patrol” in Coahoma County.

Legal Status

A coroner’s jury was convened by Sheriff L.A. Ross to determine the cause of death. The jury could not decide whether death was caused by the beating or was from heat exhaustion. A Coahoma County grand jury may have taken evidence in the case. Pat Williams was fired by the Board of Supervisors. He was never charged with any crime.