Sunflower River, near Midnight, Mississippi
Bank of the Sunflower River, near Midnight, Mississippi, 2007
On April 12, 1970, Rainey Pool, a fifty-four-year-old, one-armed sharecropper from Midnight, Mississippi, was beaten by a group of white men and dumped in the Sunflower River. Police found Pool’s body two days later. Four men were arrested and charged with assault and murder, one of whom confessed. The charges were dropped after the state court granted a nolle prosequi, a legal declaration in which a prosecutor declines to further pursue a case. In 1999, at the request of the Pool family, the case was reopened. Joe Oliver Watson pled to manslaughter and testified against the other men involved in Pool’s murder. James “Doc” Caston, his brother Charles Ernie Caston, and his half-brother Hal Spivey Crimm were convicted of manslaughter by a state jury and sentenced to twenty years in prison. A fourth man, Dennis Newton, was acquitted.