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Thomas E. Blanton Trial (Alabama Church Bombing): 2001

Fbi Quickly Identifies Suspects, But Does Not Pursue Prosecution, A Short Trial And A Quick Verdict

Defendant: Thomas E. Blanton, Jr.
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyer: John C. Robbins
Chief Prosecutors: Doug Jones, Robert Posey, Jeff Wallace
Judge: James Garrett
Place: Birmingham, Alabama
Date of Trial: April 15-May 1, 2001
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: Life imprisonment, four terms

SIGNIFICANCE: The bombing deaths of four black girls in a Birmingham, Alabama, church in 1963 brought additional support for the civil rights movement, and was a catalyst for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but Thomas Blanton was not tried for the murders until 38 years after the event.

On the morning of Sunday, September 15, 1963, a bomb placed under an outside stairway of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was detonated as the congregation inside prepared for services. The blast killed four girls who were in the basement of the church: Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Addie Mae Collins, all age 14, and Denise McNair, age 11. Many others, including relatives of the girls, were severely injured. Birmingham had become a center of civil rights activities and protests in the early 1960s, and the 16th Street Baptist Church was known to be a place where young activists gathered. The attack occurred just months after Birmingham gained international notoriety as a result of news coverage showing the police using attack dogs and water cannons against civil rights marchers led by Martin Luther King, Jr.

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