Judge denies ex-Ku Klu Klansman's motion for new trial in 1963 Birmingham church bombing

Boston Globe/September 16, 2002

Brimingham, Ala. -- A judge refused Monday to set aside a former Ku Klu Klansman's murder conviction in the 1963 church bombing that killed four black girls.

Circuit Judge James Garrett's one-sentence ruling said he had reviewed all filings and that ''the motion for a new trial is overruled.''

Bobby Frank Cherry, 71, was found guilty in May of the Sept. 15, 1963, bombing at Birmingham's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. He was sentence to life in prison.

The bombing of the church, a gathering place for demonstrators seeking an end to segregated schools and public facilities, was the single most violent act against the civil rights movement.

At a hearing last week, defense attorney Mickey Johnson argued that jurors at the trial should not have heard evidence about Cherry's character or seen a film of him hitting a civil rights leader during a 1957 attempt to integrate a Birmingham school.

Prosecutor Doug Jones said the evidence showed Cherry's views on desegregation.

Johnson had also argued that the judge should not have found Cherry competent to stand trial and should have moved the trial out of Birmingham. He did not immediately return phone messages Monday seeking comment.

Killed in the bombing were Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, all 14, and Denise McNair, 11.

Cherry was the third former Ku Klux Klansman to be convicted in the bombing. Thomas Blanton was found guilty last year and is serving a life sentence. Robert ''Dynamite Bob'' Chambliss was convicted in 1977 and died in prison.

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