State right to pursue Civil Rights case

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Alabamians must wait until after Christmas to learn if justice will be pursued in a nearly 40-year-old civil rights murder case.

A Birmingham judge will rule after Christmas on Bobby Frank Cherry’s mental competency and ability to stand trial. Cherry, 72, is a former Ku Klux Klansman an d one of a group of individuals charged with planting the bomb that destroyed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963, killing four black girls.

Cherry is the third of four suspects to be indicted in the murders. Two were sentenced to jail; the other died without being charged.

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If the judge reverses and earlier ruling and declares Cherry fit to stand trial, the state will pursue prosecution in the name of justice.

Alabama, like states such as Mississippi to the West, is actively revisiting Civil Rights Era cases in an attempt to determine if justice was truly served. It’s a noble cause, and one many people support.

The Civil Rights Era was filled with strife and turmoil and, unfortunately, a prejudice that led to many, many horrible crimes … crimes like the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing.

And the audacity with which many of those crimes were committed and then heralded simply adds insult to the injuries felt by the victims and our


Pursuing justice in these cases ­ even nearly 40 years after the fact ­ is the right thing to do. Our state and our country need to resolve these cases fairly in order to move past this history and look ahead to our future.

In Mississippi, justice came nearly 40 years later to the men who killed Medgar Evers, Ben Chester White and other Civil Rights leaders.

We believe that same resolution lies ahead for Alabama and the victims of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing.

And we know that with the resolution of these bombings, our state can look ahead toward our future, taking with it the lessons learned from our past.  

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