12 Mich. J. Race & L. 1 (2006-2007)
Ghosts of Alabama: The Prosecution of Bobby Frank Cherry for the Bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church

handle is hein.journals/mjrl12 and id is 9 raw text is: GHOSTS OF ALABAMA:THE PROSECUTION OF BOBBY
FRANK CHERRY FOR THE BOMBING OF THE
SIXTEENTH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH
Donald Q. Cochran*
I.  THE  B OM BING  ........................................................................ 2
II. THE INVESTIGATION AND EARLIER PROSECUTIONS ....................... 6
III.ALAB3AMA  v.BOBBY  FRANK  CHERRY .................................................. 12
IV   THE CHERRY PROSECUTION AS TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE. ....... 26
CONCLUSION-JUSTICE DELAYED OR
JU STICE   DEN  IED ? .........................................................  30
Perhaps no other crime in American history has shocked the con-
science of America like the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist
Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Four girls, Addie Mae Collins, Carole
Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Denise McNair, were killed while they
were getting ready for church that Sunday morning, September 15, 1963.1
Historians have pointed to the church bombing as the single event most
responsible for shocking White America out of its apathy for the plight of
African Americans and into action-action that led the following year to
passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.2
In May of 2002-almost thirty-nine years after the bombing--
Bobby Frank Cherry was brought to trial for the murders of Addie,
Carole, Cynthia, and Denise. He was the last person to be tried for the
bombing. As an Assistant United States Attorney in Birmingham, Alabama
it was my privilege to be a part of the prosecution team that brought
Cherry to justice. This Article tells the story of that prosecution and ex-
plores the question of whether such trials, so long after the events in
question, serve any useful purpose. Part I describes the bombing and pro-
vides an historical overview of the events that led up to it. Part II
chronicles the FBI investigation of the bombing in the 1960s and the sub-
sequent prosecution of two of the bombers, Robert Chambliss and
Tommy Blanton. In Part III, I discuss the Cherry prosecution itself.
Finally, Part IV attempts to address, at least tentatively, the question
that I am asked most often about the case.While the other sections of the
*    Associate Professor of Law, Cumberland Law School, Samford University. Pro-
fessor Cochran would like to thank Deborah Young, Brannon Denning, Barry Friedman,
JeffWallace, Robert Posey, Doug Jones, Andy Sheldon, and Judge William Pryor for their
review of, and comments on, this Article.
1.   See TAYLOR BpAscH, PARTING THE WATERS 889-92 (Simon & Schuster 1988).
2.   See DIANE McWHORTER, CARRY ME HOME 572 (Simon & Schuster 2001). At a
funeral for three of the girls, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. predicted that [tlhis tragic
event may cause the White South to come to terms with its conscience. Rick Bragg, 38
Years Later, Last of Suspects is Convicted in Church Bombing, N.Y.TIMES, May 23, 2002, at Al.

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