Joanne Little

Album: Sweet Honey in the Rock (1976)

Songfacts®:

  • This 1976 acapella is about a controversial murder case. Joan (pronounced Jo Ann) Little is said to be the first woman in United States history to be acquitted of murder using the defense of deadly force to resist sexual assault.

    Little was a recidivist who admittedly did not have an easy start in life, but by the age of 20 she was well on her way to serving a life sentence on the installment plan. In August 1974, she was in the Beaufort County Jail. Then suddenly, she wasn't, but her jailer, Clarence Allgood, was found naked from the waist down on her bunk. He had been stabbed to death with an ice pick, and there was "Cellular Material" on his leg.

    The following week, Little surrendered to law enforcement in North Carolina claiming the 62 year old Allgood had tried to rape her. She was charged with first degree murder, but after an hour and twenty-five minutes, the jury found her not guilty.

    Little had worked as a prostitute, so it is not impossible that she had propositioned Allgood, offering sex in exchange for something and then murdering him. Whether or not that was the case, Allgood had no business having sex with a prisoner, indeed female prisoners should never be guarded solely by male officers to protect the former from sexual abuse and the latter from false allegations, which are easily made and often impossible to refute.

    Although as a black woman, Little became a cause célèbre for race agitators, feminists and the anti-death penalty movement, she did not live up to her new image; she was released in 1979, but was arrested in New York 10 years later. After that she appears to have vanished into obscurity. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England

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