On March 5, 1869, Minnie Gaines, a black woman, was charged with murdering her white lover. Gaines was a freedwoman from Fredericksburg, Virginia. The man she was charged with murdering was her lover, James Ingle, a watchman at the Department of Interior.
On the night of the murder, Gaines comforted Ingle and demanded that he help take care of their unborn baby. He refused and told her that if she came around again, he would kill her. What Ingle did not know, Gaines had arrived at his room with a pistol, she attempted to shoot him, but the gun malfunctioned. She then picked up a hammer or ax and beat him hitting him in that head and killing him.
Right after the murder, Gaines turned herself into the police. In court, the question was whether Gaines would be convicted of premeditated murder, as the prosecutor wished, or of some lesser crime, such as murder or manslaughter, or whether she would be declared not guilty because of temporary insanity.
Gaines was the first person to be tried by a racially mixed jury. The jury consisted of six black men and six white men. All jury members took meals together and even had their picture taken together. Most people felt that Gaines would not receive a fair trial because the black jurors would feel pressure on their vote.
The jurors deliberated for ten minutes they returned with the verdict that Gaines was not guilty by reason of insanity. Gaines was sentenced to a Government Hospital without a specified amount of time. She stayed in a newly built facility for the “colored insane.” Gaines was eventually diagnosed with “mania hysterical.” However, doctors believed her condition stabilized after having her son and she was allowed to return home on April 16, 1870. She had spent nine months at the “colored for the insane” facility.
Ten years later, Gaines son was being raised in a Boston Orphanage. He remained there working throughout young adult life, he died in 1913 from tuberculosis.