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April 17, 2001 - Image 10

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-04-17

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10A - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Jury

selected in trial of Klansman in 1963 bombing

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - A jury pool
three times larger than normal was summoned
yesterday for the trial of a former Ku Klux Klans-
man accused in one of the most notorious crimes
of the civil rights era: a 1963 church bombing that
killed four black girls.
Thomas Blanton Jr., who is now 62, entered
the courthouse without comment.
" Resnervous ... scared, as any human being
would beunder the scrutiny he's received,"
defense attorney John Robbins said. If convicted,
Blanton could get life in prison. About 100

prospective jurors were called. Jury selection is
expected to extend into next week.
Circuit Judge James Garrett told the prospec-
tive jurors that the jury will be sequestered for the
trial, which is expected to last at least two weeks,
and that the jurors will be anonymous, identified
in court only by number.
The explosion at the Sixteenth Street Baptist
Church on Sept. 15, 1963, killed Denise McNair,
11, and three 14-year-olds: Addie Mae Collins,
Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson. The
bombing galvanized the civil rights movement.

Blanton is one of four men suspected of planti-
ng the dynamite. Only one - Robert Chambliss
-- has been tried. He was convicted of murder in
1977 and died in prison.
Another suspect, Herman Cash, died in 1994
without being charged. And last week, the judge
indefinitely postponed the trial of Bobby Frank
Cherry for tests on whether the 71-year-old is
mentally competent.
In a statement, the Sixteenth Street Baptist
Church congregation said the trial would not pro-
duce healing and suggested the case would have

gone to court long ago had four white girls been
killed.
"While a 38-year delay is not a real source of
elation or encouragement, we do believe that it is
never too late to do what is right," the congrega-
tion said.
At the time of bombing, blacks were inte-
grating Birmingham's all-white schools and
the church was a gathering site for protest
marches.
The FBI concluded within two years that
the bombing was the work of the four men,

but closed the case in 1968 without filing
charges.
The case was reopened by state prosecutors in
the 1970s, resulting in Chambliss' conviction.
Blanton and Cherry were indicted last May after
black ministers asked the FBI to take another"
look.
In recent years, other civil rights-era murder
cases have also been revived. In 1994, Byron De.4
La Beckwith was convicted of assassinating civil.
rights leader Medgar Evers in Mississippi in.-
1963.

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