They found the black man’s body hanging by a bedsheet from a locust tree.

Claiborne County Sheriff Marvin Lucas called in everybody he could think of. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. The FBI. By late Friday, a day after the disturbing discovery, they had identified the man as Otis Byrd, a 54-year-old riverboat worker who had been missing for more than two weeks.

What they didn’t have was the answer to the question on almost everyone’s mind: Was it a lynching?

At a time when violence against African Americans — some of it at the hands of the police — has become one of the nation’s most incendiary points of civic friction, a report of a black man dangling from a tree deep in the woods of rural Mississippi was bound to attract attention.


Officials said Friday they had not yet determined how Boyd had died, though a federal law enforcement official said investigators were leaning toward suicide as an explanation.

Continue reading:  http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-mississippi-hanging-20150321-story.html

Further reading:  Early autopsy suggests suicide of black man found hanging in Mississippi

Commentary by The Secular Jurist:  One must wonder exactly how law enforcement officials are able to determine whether or not a black man hanging in a tree committed suicide or not.  A verifiable suicide note?  Not in this case.  A lack of contusions, abrasions, and lacerations on the body which might indicate a physical struggle before death?  We don’t know yet, but the evidential absence of a prior struggle does not constitute proof of suicide.  Furthermore, this is not an isolated case.  There have been at least two other such cases in recent years:

Lennon Lacy was found hanging by the neck from a wooden swing set in a predominantly white trailer park late last year in North Carolina.  He had been dating a white woman for several months up until his death.  See:  FBI investigates suspicious death of North Carolina teen Lennon Lacy

Fredrick Jermaine Carter was discovered hanging from an oak tree four years earlier in Greenwood, Mississippi.  The medical examiner who ruled his death a suicide has since come under scrutiny for falsifying evidence in a 1998 Kenyan murder trail.  See:  Miss. authorities to review black man’s hanging


8 thoughts on “Suspicion surrounds Mississippi hanging, though suicide is suspected

  1. Robert as Carol has said this troubling, very troubling.
    And could the doctor have been involved in the investigation into the death of Fr. Kaiser?


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