Scottsboro trials are the case of a group of nine African-American youths brought before the Court of Alabama on charges of rape in 1931. The case became a landmark in the struggle against racism and for a fair trial. The proceedings was conducted by all-white jury with severe violations and thus caused violent protests.
The March 25, 1931, a group of immigrants searching for work travelled in a freight train between Chattanooga and Memphis, Tennessee. Several young whites jumped from the train, notifying the police being attacked by a group of young blacks. The police stopped the train, and found two white girls, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price, who accused the blacks of raping them in one of the railroad cars. The nine young black men were arrested and charged with rape.
The first trial took place in Scottsboro, Alabama, and the defendants received a poor defense. All except the yongest, then twelve years old, were convicted of rape and sentenced to the death penalty, sentence usual in cases of rape of a white women in the Southern United States.
However, suspicion of lack of legal safeguards in the judicial process, and with the help of PCA, the case was appealed to the Supreme Court of Alabama, which ratified seven of the eight convictions and granted a new trial to young 13, for being underage. In addition, the Chief Justice, John C. Anderson ruled that the defendants had denied the existence of an impartial jury, a fair trial, and a fair sentence, so the case was remanded to the trial court and the judge allowed the trial to be held in Decatur, Alabama, and was led by Judge James E. Horton.
The defense attorney Samuel Leibowitz went to Alabama without charging any fee and without any relation to the PCA as he was a democrat. The prosecutor was Thomas E. Knight, Jr., (Knight would be governor of Alabama from 1935 to 1937). Leibowitz unsuccessfully attempted to demand that some jurors were black. During the retrial of Haywood Patterson, one of the alleged victims of rape, Ruby Bates, admitted faking the story for fear of being accused and imprisoned for prostitution, and confessed that none of the nine young black men had raped them. Still, the jury convicted the defendants, believing that the defense of young black had bought his testimony, but Judge Horton set aside the judgment and granted a new trial, in which Patterson was convicted again.
Penalties for the rest of the boys were from 75 years to life imprisonment and the death penalty in the electric chair, but did not run any. Ozie Powell was a victim of a shooting in the face by a guard, which caused him permanent brain damage, he was released in 1936. Seventeen years after his arrest, Patterson managed to escape from prison in 1948, but died of cancer two years later. In 1976, Clarence Norris, the last survivor of the Scottsboro boys receive a pardon from the governor of Alabama, George Wallace, 45 years after his capture.
Scottsboro Boys became famous at the time; they had many supporters in the North and a lot of enemies in the South. The case is currently regarded as a miscarriage of justice, which put an end to the all-white jury in the South. The matter was a source of inspiration for works of literature, music, theater, film, and television.
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