Church Bombing

Background

In this well-known case, Klansmen planted a bomb in the basement of the
Sixteenth Street Baptist Church killing four girls and injuring a fifth person.

Legal Status

Four members of United Klans of America were named as suspects: Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas Blanton, Herman Cash, and Robert “Dynamite Bob” Chambliss. In 1971, Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley re-opened the investigation and prosecuted Klan leader Robert Chambliss who was convicted in 1977. His conviction was sustained on appeal. Chambliss v. State, 373 So.2d 1185 (1979). The Supreme Court of Alabama denied certiorari to hear the case later that year. Ex parte Chambliss, 373 So.2d 1211 (Ala. 1979). He died in prison in 1985, maintaining his innocence until the end. In 1988 Gary A. Tucker admitted to helping to set the bomb. Federal and state prosecutors pursued further investigations but no charges were filed. In 1997, the FBI re-opened the case once again. On May 17, 2000, the FBI announced that the Cahaba Boys, a subgroup of the Ku Klux Klan, had carried out the bombing. Robert Chambliss, Herman Cash, Thomas Blanton, and Bobby Cherry, who belonged to the Cahaba Boys, were assigned responsibility for the crime. Cash had died in 1994 and Chambliss had already been convicted, so in May 2001, then US Attorney G. Douglas Jones prosecuted the two other men. Thomas Blanton was found guilty on four counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life. Blanton’s conviction was affirmed in 2003 and his subsequent petitions for appeals were denied. Blanton v. State, 886 So.2d 850 (Ala. Crim. App. 2003), cert. denied 886 So.2d 886 (Ala. 2004), cert. denied 543 U.S. 878 (2004). In May 2002, Frank Bobby Cherry was found guilty of four counts of murder and four counts of arson and sentenced to life in prison. Cherry’s conviction was affirmed by the Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama and his petition for certiorari was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Alabama after his death. Cherry v. State, 933 So.2d 377 (Ala. Crim. App. 2004), cert. denied 933 So.2d 393 (Ala. 2006).