The Moore's Ford Lynching InfoCenter

11. District Court Victory: Aug. 18, 2017


Discovery of Grand Jury Transcripts: 2016


In 2016, after publication of his book, Pitch learned that the grand jury documents still existed and that their whereabouts would have to remain secret until a court ordered their disclosure. In addition, the documents would first have to be checked to see if they included classified material.

When Pitch told Bell about the discovery, Bell notified Judge Treadwell and the Assistant U.S. Attorney handling the case (G. F. “Pete” Peterman, III) that the grand jury materials had been located. Treadwell ordered the Department of Justice to transport the documents to his chambers in Macon, GA.

Bell then filed a second motion for the release of the records. A hearing was held in Macon in which Bell, Pitch and Peterman (who was already familiar with the special historical aspects of the Moore’s Ford case) discussed the new developments.

In Re Petition Of: Anthony S. Pitch.
United States District Court, Middle District of Georgia, Macon Division
Judge Marc T. Treadwell
June 9, 2017
Bell's Second Motion on Behalf of Anthony S. Pitch

But despite his appreciation of their historical value, U. S. Attorney Peterman nevertheless argued that the meticulously itemized exceptions listed within Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure still barred the disclosure of these documents. In short, his assertion was that a U. S. District Court did not have “inherent authority” to circumvent the language of the Rule 6(e) exceptions.


The District Court’s Decision: August 18, 2017


Grand jury proceedings are secret. But Bell argued that this matter was (and is) historically significant, similar to cases involving Richard Nixon, the Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss and Jimmy Hoffa. Details of those investigations were made public.

On August 18, 2017, U. S. District Court Judge Marc T. Treadwell said that because of the long passage of time, the great historical interest of the event, the annual reenactments of the lynching, and the fact that all witnesses, suspects and grand jurors were now deceased, Pitch had, in fact, demonstrated exceptional circumstances and the historical significance for the release of the records.

“Nothing favors continued secrecy other than the bare principle that grand jury proceedings should be secret, and while that is important, it is outweighed by the historical significance of the grand jury transcripts and the critical role they can play in enhancing the historical record of the tragic event that occurred at Moore’s Ford,” Treadwell wrote in his 15-page decision.

“Indeed,” the judge continued, “it is difficult to imagine a more suitable case for the application of a historical exception to the rule of grand jury secrecy; of the cases applying the historical exception, none has involved events that took place over 70 years before the disclosure was ordered.”

In the end, Judge Treadwell sided with Bell’s argument about the extraordinary historical value of these grand jury records.

“Fingering the actual triggermen won’t matter much now,” Pitch said, “because everyone involved is almost certainly dead. But it will reveal how corrupt this grand jury was. I don’t think it will solve the case but I think it will make us look hard at certain people’s testimony, and we can draw conclusions from that.”


Judge Marc T. Treadwell's Decision (PDF, 15 pages)

A spokesperson for Peterman said the government would review its options on this matter.

In January, 2018, the United States Government filed an appeal of Judge Treadwell’s decision, forcing the matter to be heard by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, GA. The date set for the hearing was Oct. 3, 2018.


Sources & Resources



The primary sources used for developing content on these pages include the following:

Pitch, Anthony S., The Last Lynching: How a Gruesome Mass Murder Rocked a Small Georgia Town
Skyhorse Publishing, 307 W. 36th St., 11th Floor, New York City, N.Y. 10018 © 2016 by Anthony S. Pitch

Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI)
Region 11 Investigative Case Summary (565 pages, PDF)

Additional sources used for developing content on these pages include the following:

The 1946 Moore’s Ford Lynching Case: Another Push for Justice on 10/3/2018
2018 - September 16


Original entry by E. M. Beck, University of Georgia, Stewart E. Tolnay, University of Washington, Seattle, 01/26/2007
2018 - August 26


Activists look to keep history alive through reenactment of Moore's Ford lynching
By Hope Ford, Adrianne Haney
2018 - July 27


Investigations into 1946 Georgia lynching ends, hope for answers lingers
Chattanooga Times Free Press
2018 - March 7
by Associated Press


1946 Lynching: Investigations End, Hope for Answers Lingers
By: KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press
2018 - February 27


1946 lynching: Investigations end, hope for answers lingers
AP Images Blog
2018 - February 27


Answers to last mass lynching in U.S. die when investigators close case after 72 years
SPLC - Southern Poverty Law Center, By Brett Barrouquere
2018 - February 7


Notorious Ga. Lynching Case Closes After Years of Anguish, No Justice
Article by Brad Schrade, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
2018 - January 24


Probes of Moore’s Ford Lynching End with No Charges, AJC learns
By Brad Schrade - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
2017 - December 28


Morris County Lawyer Wins Release of Records from 1946 Mass Lynching Case, by Kevin Coughlin
2017 - August 18


Morris County Attorney Seeks Justice in Gruesome 1946 Lynching, by Kevin Coughlin
2017 - July 31


Righting an Historic Wrong: The 1946 Moore's Ford Lynching Case May Finally Be Drawing to a Close
By Joe Bell, Esq.
2017 - July 17


The Horror of Lynchings Lives On
The New York Times, by the Editorial Board
2016 - December 3


A Lynching in Georgia: the Living Memorial to America’s History of Racist Violence
2016 - November 2


70th observance of Moore’s Ford lynching set in Monroe; reenactment of killings planned
By Wayne Ford
2016 - July 21


FBI Questions Elderly Georgia Man in Connection with Unsolved 1946 Lynching at Moore’s Ford Bridge
New York Daily News, by Doyle Murphy
2015 - February 17, 2015


Civil Rights Leaders Claim New Leads in 68-year-old Moore’s Ford Lynching Case
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, by Christian Boone
2014 - March 5


U.S. Urges Opening Up Old Grand Jury Records
New York Times, by Charlie Savage
2011 - October 19


Judge Orders Release of Nixon’s Watergate Testimony
By JOHN SCHWARTZ, New York Times
2011 - July 29


Holding on to Those Who Can't Be Held: Reenacting a Lynching at Moore's Ford, Georgia
Central Washington University, by Mark Auslander
2010 - November 8


'Murder' Seeks Justice for Victims Of Jim Crow Era
Special to The Washington Post, by Ellen Maguire
2008 - October 6


Seeking Justice for Victims of Terror Long Ago
New York Times, by Felicia R. Lee
2008 - October 3


New evidence collected in 1946 lynching case
CNN, by Doug Gross
2008 - July 2


Looking Behind Tragedy at Moore's Ford Bridge; Foot soldier of civil rights era works to solve 60-year-old-mystery, Associated Press (AP)
2006 - July 24


1946 Killing Of 4 Blacks Is Recalled
New York Times
1999 - June 1