Wrongly convicted soldier dies after Army apology

Wrongly convicted soldier dies after Army apology »Play Video
Samuel Snow (Photo courtesy of CNN)
SEATTLE - After waiting 64 years for the Army to clear his name for a wrongful conviction in World War II, Samuel Snow died just hours after receiving his official apology.

Snow was one of 28 innocent African-American soldiers who were sentenced in the largest court-martial of the war for a crime they did not commit at Seattle's Fort Lawton in 1944.

Their names were recently cleared after a new investigation determined that court-martial proceeding was grossly flawed and that the prosecutor had withheld critical evidence.

Snow was one of only two of the 28 who were still alive to hear the formal apology issued at a ceremony Saturday at Seattle's Discovery Park.

He had planned to attend the ceremony, and traveled to Seattle from his home in Leesburg, Fla., to be there with his family. But just before the ceremony, he was admitted to the hospital for treatment of an irregular heartbeat.

Although he had been expected to recover, he died at 12:43 a.m. Sunday. He was 83.

Samuel Snow’s son Ray had represented his father at the ceremony Saturday when his father was unable to attend.

U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, said that Saturday night at the hospital before he died, Ray Snow showed his father the honorable discharge plaque and read it to him.

Samuel Snow’s reaction was that he smiled broadly and was very pleased that his name had finally been cleared and justice done.

His son was at his side when Samuel Snow died. No official cause of death has been announced as yet.

The Army overturned the convictions of all 28 of the black soldiers who were court-martialed, which followed an August 1944 riot and lynching of an Italian prisoner of war at Fort Lawton.

The court-martial proceeding "was not fair or just," Assistant Army Secretary Ronald James said at Saturday's ceremony.

The prosecutor in charge of the 1944 proceeding assigned only two defense attorneys to represent all 28 of the soldiers, then gave them only a few days to prepare a defense and withheld critical evidence from them, the Army investigation determined.

"The Army is genuinely sorry. I'm sorry that your father, grandfather and loved ones lost years of their freedom," James said.

The Army brought as many family members as they could find to the ceremony.

"You know, there's nothing with forgiveness," Ray Snow says. "And that's where my dad stands. He stands in forgiveness. And he holds no animosity."