The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

May 5, 2013

More work ahead for Scottsboro Boys pardons

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Though the Alabama Legislature has cleared the way for posthumous pardons of the Scottsboro Boys, much work — from legal documents to public hearings — remains before the names of the nine black teens wrongly convicted more than 80 years ago are officially cleared.

The Scottsboro Boys were convicted by all-white juries of raping two white women on a train in Alabama in 1931. All but the youngest were sentenced to death, even though one of the women recanted her story. All eventually got out of prison. Only one received a pardon before he died.

The case became a symbol of the tragedies wrought by racial injustice. It inspired songs, books and films. A Broadway musical was staged in 2010, the same year Washington opened a museum dedicated to the case. The Scottsboro Boys' appeals resulted in U.S. Supreme Court decisions that criminal defendants are entitled to effective counsel and that blacks can't be systematically excluded from criminal juries.

In April, the state Legislature passed a bill to allow posthumous pardons in the case, and Gov. Robert Bentley signed it into law. But before the pardons are officially issued, the state Board of Pardons and Paroles must receive applications for them from a circuit judge or district attorney in one of the counties where the Scottsboro Boys' original trials occurred. The applications must show that pardons would remedy social injustices associated with racial discrimination. Then the board would have to hold a public hearing and vote to grant the pardons, Assistant Executive Director Eddie Cook Jr. said.

"No one has sent in anything yet," he said of the needed paperwork.

Sheila Washington, founder of the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center in northeast Alabama, said that will happen soon. "Trust me. It is not going away after we got it this far," she said.

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