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A Mono Indian’s fight for life, part 1

For The Madera Tribune

Mason Bailey, shown here in 1960, worked for 10 years to keep Rayna T. Carmen out of the Gas Chamber.


It was late Saturday afternoon, April 22, 1950, when Rayna Tom Carmen had a casual encounter with three people on the streets of North Fork. The results of that chance meeting put him on San Quentin’s Death Row and a 16-year old boy in his grave. It also opened up a fierce fight over how much jurisdiction the State of California had over the Mono Indians of Madera County.

Rayna, who was a 39-year-old World War II veteran had been a life-long acquaintance of Mrs. Ella McSwain, her nephew Alvin McSwain, and her cousin Josephine Davis, the three people he had met in North Fork. Therefore, it was not unusual that Ella would ask Carmen to drive the trio to her home a few miles from North Fork.

After spending a short time at the McSwain home the women decided they wanted to go to a dance at Yosemite Forks, so they asked Carmen to take them. When they got to the dance hall, they were joined by Wilbur McSwain, Alvin’s brother.



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