Delayed, not denied

Church bombing: Conviction in 37-year-old Birmingham case brings justice at last.

May 07, 2001

JUSTICE DELAYED, in this case, was not justice denied.

Had Thomas Blanton Jr. gone to trial 37 years ago for the horrible bomb attack that killed four girls at Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church, the circumstances in 1960s Alabama would have favored him.

Prosecutors certainly wouldn't have had incriminating FBI tape recordings to use against Blanton because the agency's director, J. Edgar Hoover, had blocked access to them. And the racial dynamics could have made a fair trial and outcome impossible, as it did many times in the South.

Blanton could have been acquitted and walked away, immune from retrial.

But Janet Reno's Justice Department reopened the case against the former Klansman in a much different atmosphere. Investigators were vigilant; so were prosecutors.

The jury of eight whites and four blacks convicted Blanton of first-degree murder in the deaths of Denise McNair, 11, and Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson, all 14.

Blanton spent too many years as a free man, but there has finally been justice.

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