The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

May 5, 2013

More work ahead for Scottsboro Boys pardons

(Continued)

When Washington started a campaign for pardons in the case, she discovered state law did not permit them for dead defendants. She worked with Republican state Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur to get the new legislation passed in April. It permits the parole board to issue posthumous pardons in cases at least 80 years old. "It's time to right this wrong," Bentley said at the signing.

Washington said she took a break after the law passed, but added that now is the time to get back to work and get them issued. She said she will have help from researchers at the University of Alabama in compiling the necessary information.

Orr agreed with Washington that the paperwork will be completed and the applications filed, likely by an official in Jackson County where the first trial occurred. The work will likely take a few weeks.

To support their paperwork, they can use a resolution championed by Democratic Rep. John Robinson of Scottsboro that also became law last month. It says the nine "were the victims of gross injustice" and are considered formally exonerated.

Cook said the parole board can't start the pardon process until it gets the paperwork. "The groundwork to do this is on someone else's shoulders," he said.

But he said it will be a fascinating case to handle once the paperwork is filed. "This case is taught in most law schools in the country," he said.

Once the pardons are granted, Washington's work won't be done. She said she hopes public attention about the pardons will help her solve one mystery about the case: The burial sites of five of the Scottsboro boys remain unknown.

Most of Scottsboro Boys faded from public view after being released by the state. Only one had a relative attend a ceremony at the Scottsboro museum when the governor signed the pardon legislation.

Washington said her goal is to for all the graves to be marked with tombstones noting the Scottsboro Boys' place in American history.

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