Although all of the jurors feel the lads are guilty, the cases end in a deadlocked jury. Judge Hawkins announces a mistrial and sentences all eight lads to execution by electric chair. Despite Ruby Bates' admission that she lied about being raped, the Alabama Supreme Court maintained seven of eight convictions. The boys' lawyers appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refuses to hear their case.
The eight young men are taken to Montgomery to begin their sentence on December 10, 1931. They refuse food and drink until they are returned to Jacksonville. On Christmas Day, 1931, the boys are taken to Atmore for their trial before Judge Hugh M. Taylor. They are again found guilty and sentenced to death. After several appeals, the Alabama Supreme Court upholds the conviction and sentence. The men are executed by electrocution on August 6, 1932, in the electric chair designed by Dr. William Thomas Green of the University of Pittsburgh Medical School. This is the last execution in Alabama history.
The men were innocent, but it didn't matter. The justice system in place at the time wouldn't allow for such things. Today, there are many examples of people who have been wrongfully convicted - often because of poor police work, tainted evidence, or incompetent counsel. However, some people do kill others and get away with it. In such cases, there is nothing that can be done about it - not even in modern America.
An all-white, all-male jury speedily convicted the Scottsboro Boys and condemned eight of them to death in the first round of trials in April 1931. The trial of the youngest, 13-year-old Leroy Wright, ended in a hung jury because one juror preferred life in prison over death. A second trial resulted in another deadlock, this time because only seven jurors were present at the beginning of the proceedings. After three more mistrials, the state decided not to try again. The remaining six boys were eventually released from jail after serving nearly three years.
Leroy Wright died on January 11, 1933, in an industrial accident when a steel beam fell on him while he was working at a shoe factory in Alabama. He was 14 years old.
The other five boys who were with him at the time of his death were also minors. They were identified only by their birth dates: "02-15-09", "01-05-11", "03-08-10", "12-12-11", and "06-20-12". It wasn't until many years later that their names became known: Ruby Sales, 14; Charles Ross, 16; William Stewart, 17; Emanuel Wilson, 18; and Reuben Blackwell, 19. All the boys were black and from Scottsboro. /i>
Their murders remained unsolved for more than 70 years.
Eight of the nine young men were convicted and condemned to death on April 9, 1931. Despite the recommendation of the all-white jury, the judge gave Roy Wright, the youngest of the group, a mistrial due to age. The boys' lawyers appealed their case all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear it. On May 14, 1931, the eight boys were executed at the age of 16 to 18 in Miskin, Alabama.
The only one who got off was Andy Scott, who had been identified by a single eyewitness as the leader of the gang. He was given a life sentence that was eventually reduced to 20 years. After serving just over 10 years, he was released due to overcrowding at Auburn Prison. In 1951, Scott married and started a family. In 1975, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
In October 2009, all nine men were finally buried together in an undisclosed location.
Today, there is a museum in Scottsboro located about 30 miles from Birmingham that tells their story.
Because of the jury system's design, both Tom Robinson and the Scottsboro boys were condemned to a guilty verdict even before they went to trial. Shoot as many bluejays as you can if you can hit them, but remember that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird (Lee, 98). Harper Lee's work has been read by millions of people all over the world since its release.
The real story behind the trial is much more interesting than what comes down in books or movies. It is also worth mentioning that not all authors who have written about the Scottsboro case have been American authors. Canadian author Alice Munro wrote a short story called "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" about the same event. Munro's story won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009.
Scottsboro was an incident that brought attention to the injustice done to black people in America. Black men were being arrested for crimes they didn't commit just because they were black. This happened every day in different parts of the country until the United States Civil Rights Movement took hold in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
There was a time when black people weren't allowed to testify in court cases involving white people. This rule was put in place by courts in order to avoid having blacks influence the outcome of the trials. However, this practice was found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1944. Before this decision was made, several black people had already taken the stand against their accusers.
The Alabama Legislature approved a resolution proposing posthumous pardons for those offenders who did not get their charges dropped. Legislators also passed a resolution affirming the innocence of all nine Scottsboro Boys. Even Gov. Wallace's pardon for Clarence Norris did not pronounce him innocent. It only removed his name from the list of people wanted by police officials.
In October 2009, President Obama issued a full presidential pardon to all Scottsboro Boys involved in the incident. The White House said that the action "should not be construed as an expression of any opinion as to their guilt or innocence."
After World War II, another group of young men was arrested for similar crimes - this time in Davenport, Iowa. Again, police claimed they were trying to protect white women from being attacked by these black men. But again, the boys were found guilty and sentenced to death. This time, however, the crime wave had ended before the executions could take place. In fact, there had been no other reported attacks by these men until after they were acquitted in both cases.
Currently, there are two men on Alabama's death row who were part of the Scottsboro case. They have filed a lawsuit seeking relief because they say the state refuses to let them see the evidence used against them. The suit has not gone forward while it is being considered by a federal judge.
10th of July, 1931 The Scottsboro lads watch the execution of Willie Stokes, the first of 10 blacks to be executed in the jail over the next ten years, on the day originally planned for their deaths. After hearing Page 2's grisly stories of the execution, several of the lads describe nightmares or restless nights. One boy is said to have taken his own life.
7th of January, 1932 Seven more blacks are killed by police across the country, including the Scottsboro boy James Conley. In all, 14 black men have been killed by police in the United States since the start of 1932.
14th of January, 1932 An article in the New York Times reports that "a white mob in Marion, Indiana, last night lynched two negroes who had been arrested as thieves. One of the victims was a 12-year-old boy." The second man killed was also 12 years old. No one was ever charged with the murders.
15th of January, 1932 The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that "a mob of 500 people armed with pistols and rifles" took control of the town of Marion, Indiana and hanged both men from a tree outside the courthouse. They then set fire to the bodies.
16th of January, 1932 A similar incident occurs in Leitchfield, Kentucky when a group of people led by an insurance salesman hang two black men from a tree outside a courthouse.