Evelyn Turner, who was prosecuted by U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions in 1985 when he was a federal prosecutor in Alabama, maintains that Sessions remains just as racist today as he was two decades ago.
“Sessions has not changed. Have you ever known a leopard to change his spots? I haven’t,” an emotional Turner told CNN. “Sessions is still a racist.”
Turner and her husband were both activists for civil rights. Albert Turner worked as a field director for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and marched with him from Selma to Montgomery. According to Turner, her husband was also dedicated to getting Blacks to register to vote, as well as hold more political positions. He formed the Perry County Civic League in Perry County, Alabama.
Alabama Sen. Sessions previously lost a federal judge nomination due to his racist positions and remarks.
However, he often faced opposition. “They didn’t want us to be in charge because there’s more Black folks in Perry County than there is white,” Turner said.
In 1985, while serving as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, Sessions prosecuted the “Marion Three,” Turner, her husband Albert Turner Sr. and Spencer Hogue Jr., in a voter fraud case. The three were accused of tampering with absentee ballots during the 1984 Democratic primary to forward the campaigns of candidates supported by the county’s civic league. Defense attorneys called the investigation “one-sided,” saying it was “designed to intimidate Black voters.”
Then and now, Sessions denied the investigation was racially motivated. In 1985 he said in court documents: “[A]n effort has been made … to create the impression that this investigation is unfounded or racially motivated. These allegations are false and can only be construed as a part of an effort to poison the jury pool and to attempt to cause witnesses to be reluctant to testify.”
Turner, her husband and Hogue were all found not guilty on all charges. But her disdain for the Alabama senator did not change.
"All of us believe it is unacceptable for someone with Senator Sessions' record to lead the Department of Justice."
“I hate him just that bad,” she said. “And he shouldn’t be up for anything, not even a dog catcher.”
According to Turner, she saw Sessions last year at a ceremony honoring activists who marched from Selma. Sessions, who helped to set up the event, approached Turner, who turned him away.
“He never said, ‘I’m sorry Miss Turner I put you through that. That it was my job,’” Turner said. “He hasn’t told me that. Then why should I forgive him? But I know in order for me to get to heaven, I know I’m gonna have to forgive him, but I’ll never forget as long as I stay black. I will not forget.”
Evelyn and Albert Turner Sr.’s son, Albert Turner Jr., does not share the same sentiments as his mother. Albert Turner Jr. replaced his father on the Perry County Commission after his death in 2000 and does not believe Sessions is racist.
Cornell Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, was among those arrested.
“In my opinion, he’s not a racist,” Turner said. “In my dealings with him, I have not seen racist tendencies or biases from Sen. Sessions.”
According to Turner’s son, the case against his parents was the result of certain Black officials and a white district attorney.
“You had Blacks who didn’t like my father, who you know, felt that he was too influential in this community when it came to politics and other aspects of Perry County’s life, and they sought to make sure his influence was diminished by putting him in jail,” he said.
According to Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for Sessions, Sessions was “bringing this case on behalf of officials in his state who thought that an election wasn’t fair.”
“So he went forward and a majority of the jury, their peers, found them innocent,” Flores said. “The system worked.”