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In early May 1920, Mack Thompson, age 14, was charged in Lexington County with the assault with intent to ravish (attempted rape) of two young white girls (ages 10 and 12). Thompson approached the two children as they were on their way to school, grabbed the older of the two and dragged her into the woods. The younger girl escaped and ran to get help. Mack was soon apprehended and quickly taken to the state penitentiary in Columbia for safekeeping, apparently just ahead of a lynch mob. Mack was convicted and sentenced to death by an all-white, all-male Lexington County jury.
His death sentence, however, was commuted by then-governor Robert Cooper. Governor Cooper initially granted Mack a reprieve and ordered a mental examination after learning that a "thirteen year old negro, of feeble mind, was in the death house of the penitentiary awaiting execution." The examining doctors concluded that while Thompson may have been fourteen (not thirteen), his "brain had not developed beyond that of a normal child of nine years, that he was a low grade moron, and therefore not fully responsible for his criminal acts." On that basis, the Governor commuted Mack's death sentence to one of life imprisonment. A review of social security and census records indicate Mack was eventually released (by 1952) and he died in Inman, South Carolina in 1988.
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