Willie Seals Case

Willie Seals was convicted of rape by an all-white jury in Mobile in 1958 and sentenced to death. The Non-Partisan Voters’ League retained Vernon Crawford for the appeal. He argued that the systematic exclusion of African Americans from the jury rolls infringed upon Seals’ constitutional rights and applied for a writ of error. The Alabama Supreme Court summarily rejected Crawford’s argument, but the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in 1963 and granted one of the first writs of error in Alabama history. The Seals decision had national ramifications and served as a precedent for the integration of juries throughout the south. Seals was finally released in 1970 after a twelve-year incarceration.