Ala. board ap­proves par­dons for ‘Scottsboro Boys’

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY PHILLIP RAWLS

MONT­GOMERY, ALA. | Alabama’s pa­role board wrote a new end­ing for the in­fa­mous “Scottsboro Boys” rape case Thurs­day by ap­prov­ing post­hu­mous par­dons more than 80 years af­ter their ar­rests.

The board made the unan­i­mous de­ci­sion dur­ing a hear­ing in Mont­gomery for three black men whose con­vic­tions were never over­turned in a case that came to sym­bol­ize racial in­jus­tice in the Deep South in the 1930s.

“To­day, the Scottsboro Boys have fi­nally re­ceived jus­tice,” Gov. Robert J. Bent­ley, a Repub­li­can, said.

Nine black males were falsely ac­cused of rap­ing two white women on a train in north­east Alabama in 1931. The men were con­victed by all-white ju­ries, and all but the youngest de­fen­dant was sen­tenced to death, though none was ex­e­cuted and the ma­jor­ity of the con­vic­tions were over­turned that decade.

The state se­na­tor who got a law en­acted to per­mit post­hu­mous par­dons said the Scottsboro Boys’ lives were ru­ined by a jus­tice sys­tem that ig­nored ev­i­dence, and that it was time to right a wrong.

“It is a promis­ing re­minder of how far we have come as a state since those re­gret­ful days in our past,” state Sen. Arthur Orr, De­catur Repub­li­can, said.

She­lia Wash­ing­ton, the founder of the Scottsboro Boys Mu­seum in Scottsboro, said the par­dons “give the his­tory books a new end­ing not guilty.”

The boys’ ap­peals re­sulted in U.S. Supreme Court rul­ings that crim­i­nal de­fen­dants are en­ti­tled to ef­fec­tive coun­sel and that blacks can’t be sys­tem­at­i­cally ex­cluded from crim­i­nal ju­ries. The case in­spired songs, books and films. A Broad­way mu­si­cal was staged in 2010, the same year a mu­seum ded­i­cated to the case opened in Scottsboro.

Five of the men’s con­vic­tions were over­turned in 1937 af­ter one of the al­leged vic­tims re­canted her story. One de­fen­dant, Clarence Nor­ris, re­ceived a par­don be­fore his death in 1976. At the time, he was the only Scottsboro Boy known to be alive. Noth­ing was done for the oth­ers be­cause state law did not per­mit post­hu­mous par­dons.

The three Scottsboro Boys con­sid­ered by the pa­role board on Thurs­day were Haywood Pat­ter­son, Charles Weems and Andy Wright.

The board said the other five — Olen Mont­gomery, Ozie Pow­ell, Wil­lie Roberson, Eugene Wil­liams and Roy Wright — weren’t el­i­gi­ble un­der the new law be­cause their con­vic­tions were over­turned on ap­peal and the charges dropped.

Ms. Wash­ing­ton said some of the Scottsboro Boys changed their names and started new lives.

“They didn’t know how much they meant in his­tory while they were alive,” she said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

She­lia Wash­ing­ton, di­rec­tor of the Scottsboro Boys Mu­seum and Cul­tural Center, and state Sen. Arthur Orr cel­e­brate Thurs­day in Mont­gomery, Ala., af­ter the Alabama Board of Par­dons and Paroles par­dons three of the Scottsboro Boys.

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