Alabama pardons Scottsboro boys

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles voted Thursday to pardon three of the Scottsboro Boys, nine black teenagers falsely accused of raping two white women on a train in 1931.

The board unanimously approved the petition after a short hearing.

All the Scottsboro Boys served jail time, but Haywood Patterson, Charlie Weems and Andy Wright were the last of the accused to have convictions on their records. The three men, along with defendant Clarence Norris, were convicted on rape charges in 1937, after a six-year ordeal that included three trials, the recantation of one of the accusers and two landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions on legal representation and the racial make-up of jury pools.

Alabama ultimately dropped rape charges against five of the accused. Norris received a pardon from Gov. George Wallace in 1976.

Last spring, the Alabama Legislature passed a law allowing the granting of posthumous pardons for convictions at least 75 years old, a law specifically designed to allow the pardon of the Scottsboro Boys to go forward. In October, a group of scholars petitioned the Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant pardons to the men. The petition was endorsed by the judges and district attorneys of Morgan and Jackson counties, where the initial trials took place.

Under Alabama law, pardons can only be granted to those who have felony convictions on their record. The petitioners had initially hoped the board would review the status of each of the defendants.

Patterson died of cancer in 1952. Weems and Wright were eventually released from prison; according to a PBS documentary on the case, Weems settled in Atlanta and Wright settled in Connecticut. Norris, who died in 1989, is the last of the accused known to have passed away.


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