Closing a chapter in a criminal case that is considered symbolic of racial injustice in the early decades of the 20th Century, the Alabama parole board Thursday granted posthumous pardons to three black men who were convicted by all-white juries of a rape that apparently never occurred in a case involving two white women as claimed victims.
Nine black men were originally convicted within a few weeks of their arrest and jailing in Scottsboro in 1931, and all but one were sentenced to death. Successful appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, involving landmark rulings on the right to legal representation and the racial composition of juries, were followed by retrials of some of the defendants. Charges against five of the men were dropped by the state in 1937, and a sixth defendant was pardoned before he died in 1976 by then-Gov. George Wallace. Today’s action pardoned the remaining three defendants, Haywood Patterson, Charles Weems and Andy Wright, according to the Associated Press and the Montgomery Advertiser.