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No crime in American history -- let alone a crime that never occurred -- produced as many trials, convictions, reversals, and retrials as did an alleged gang rape of two white girls by nine black teenagers on a Southern Railroad freight run on March 25, Over the course of the two decades that followed, the struggle for justice of the "Scottsboro Boys," as the black teens were called, made celebrities out of anonymities, launched and ended careers, wasted lives, produced heroes, opened southern juries to blacks, exacerbated sectional strife, and divided America's political left.
Hoboing was a common pastime in the Depression year of For some, riding freights was an appealing adventure compared to the drudgery and dreariness of their daily lives. Others hopped rail cars to move from one fruitless job search to the next.
Two dozen or so mainly male -- and mainly young -- whites and blacks rode the Southern Railroad's Chattanooga to Memphis freight on March 25, Among them were four black Chattanooga teenagers hoping to investigate a rumor of government jobs in Memphis hauling logs on the river and five other black teens from various parts of Georgia.
Four young whites, two males and two females dressed in overalls, also rode the train, returning to Huntsville from unsuccessful job searches in the cotton mills of Chattanooga. Soon after the train crossed the Alabama border, a white youth walked across the top of a tank car.
He stepped on the hand of a black youth named Haywood Patterson, Married wife looking real sex Scottsboro was hanging on to its side. Patterson had friends aboard the train. A stone-throwing fight erupted between white youths and a larger group of black youths. Eventually, the blacks succeeded in forcing all but one of the members of the white gang off the train.
Patterson pulled the one remaining white youth, Orville Gilley, back onto the train after it had accelerated to a life-endangering speed. Some of the whites forced off the train went to the stationmaster in Stevenson to report what they described as an assault by a gang of blacks. The stationmaster wired ahead. A posse in Paint Rock, Alabama stopped the train. Dozens of men with guns rushed at the train as it ground to a halt. The armed men rounded up every black youth they could find. Nine captured blacks, soon to be called "The Scottsboro Boys," were tied together with plow line, loaded on a flat back truck, and taken to a jail in Scottsboro.
One or the other of the girls, either in response to a question or on their own initiative, told one of the posse members that they had been raped by a gang of twelve blacks with pistols and knives. In the jail that March 25th, Price pointed out six of the nine boys and said that they were the ones who raped her. The guard reportedly replied, "If those six had Miss Price, it stands to reason that the others had Miss Bates. A crowd of several hundred men, hoping for a good old-fashioned lynching, surrounded the Scottsboro jail the night of their arrest for rape.
Their plans were foiled, however, when Alabama's governor, B. Miller, ordered the National Guard to Scottsboro to protect the suspects. Trials of the Scottsboro Boys began twelve days after their arrest in the courtroom of Judge A. Haywood Patterson described the scene as "one big smiling white face.
They were no "Dream Team. The defense lawyers demonstrated their incompetence in many ways. They expressed a willingness to have all nine defendants tried together, despite the prejudice such a trial might cause Married wife looking real sex Scottsboro Roy Wright, for example, who at age twelve was the youngest of the nine Scottsboro Boys. The prosecution, fearing that a single trial might constitute reversible error, decided to try the defendants in groups of two or three.
The cross-examination of Victoria Price lasted only minutes, while examining doctors R. Bridges and John Lynch were not cross-examined at all. Ruby Bates was not asked about contradictions between her testimony and that of Price. The defense offered only the defendants themselves as witnesses, and their testimony was rambling, sometimes incoherent, and riddled with obvious misstatements. But three others, all who later claimed they did so because of beatings and threats, said that a gang rape by other defendants did occur.
Clarence Norris provided what one paper called "the highlight of the trial" when he said of the other blacks, "They all raped her, everyone of them. A local editorialist described the state's case as "so conclusive as to be almost perfect.
Guilty verdicts in the first trial were announced while the second trial was underway.
The large crowd outside the courthouse let out a roar of approval that was clearly heard by the second jury inside. When the four trials were over, eight of the nine Scottsboro Boys had been convicted and sentenced to death. A mistrial was declared in the case of twelve-year old Roy Wright, when eleven of the jurors held out for death despite the request of the prosecution for only a life sentence in view of his tender age.
Rape was a politically explosive charge in the South, and the NAACP was concerned about damage to its effectiveness that might result if it turned out some or all of the Boys were guilty. Instead, it was the Communist Party that moved aggressively to make the Scottsboro case their own.
The Party saw the case as providing a great recruiting tool among southern blacks and northern liberals. The Communist Party, through its legal arm, the International Labor Defense ILDpronounced the case against the Boys a "murderous frame-up" and began efforts, ultimately successful, to be named as their attorneys.
The NAACP, a slow-moving bureaucracy, finally came to the realization that the Scottsboro Boys were most likely innocent and that leadership in the case would have large public relations benefits. But it was by then too late. The Scottsboro Boys, for better or worse, cast their lots with the Communists who, in the South, were "treated with only slightly more courtesy than a gang of rapists. In January,the Alabama Supreme Court, by a 6 - 1 vote, affirmed all but one of the eight convictions and death sentences.
The court ruled that Eugene Williams, age thirteen, should have not been tried as an adult. The cases were appealed to the United States Supreme Court which overturned the convictions in the landmark case of Powell vs Alabama. The Court,ruled that the right of the defendants under the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause to competent legal counsel had been denied by Alabama. There would have to be new trials. The prosecutor in the retrials was Alabama's newly elected attorney general, Thomas Knight, Jr.
Knight's father, Thomas Knight, Sr. The ILD quieted skeptics who saw the organization caring more about the benefits it could derive from the case than the Boys' welfare by asking Samuel Leibowitz to serve as the lead defense attorney. Leibowitz was a New York criminal attorney who had secured an astonishing record of seventy-seven acquittals and one hung jury in seventy-eight murder trials.
Liebowitz was often described as"the next Clarence Darrow. The Scottsboro Boys spent the two years between their first trials and the second round, scheduled to begin in March, in Decatur, in the deplorable conditions of Depression-era Alabama prisons. While on death row at Kilby prison, on the very date originally set for their own executions, they watched as another inmate was carried off to unsoundproofed death chamber adjacent to their cells, then listened to the sounds of his electrocution.
Once or twice a week they were allowed to leave their tiny cells, as they were handcuffed and walked a few yards down the hall to a shower. An early visitor found them "terrified, bewildered" like "scared little mice, caught in a trap. As their trial date approached, they were moved to the Decatur jail, a rat-infested facility that two years earlier had been condemned as "unfit for white prisoners.
Leibowitz moved to quash the indictments on the ground that Negroes had been systematically excluded from jury rolls. He raised Married wife looking real sex Scottsboro eyebrows by questioning the veracity of local jury commissioners and many more when he insisted that prosecutor Knight stop his practice of calling black witnesses, who Leibowitz had called to show had never served on juries, by their first names.
To many local observers it was one thing to defend rapists -- that, after all, is part of the American justice system -- but it was another, unforgivable thing to come to Alabama and attack their social order and way of life. Unsurprisingly, the motion to quash the indictment was denied. Direct examination was brief, only sixteen minutes. Price recounted her job-hunting trip to Chattanooga, the fight on the train between whites and blacks, and the gang rape in which Haywood Patterson was Married wife looking real sex Scottsboro of her attackers.
Prosecutor Knight's strategy on direct was to cover the essential facts in a condensed, unadorned way that would provide few opportunities for defense attorneys to expose contradictions with the more detailed and implausible story she told in the first trials. Leibowitz's cross-examination was merciless. His questions suggested his answers. There was no Callie Brochie's boardinghouse in Chattanooga, as Price claimed.
She was an adulterer who had consorted with Jack Tiller in the Huntsville freight yards two days before the alleged rape, and it was his semen or that of Orville Gilley that was found in her vagina. She was a person of low repute, a prostitute. She was neither crying, bleeding, or seriously bruised after the alleged gang rape.
She was fearful of being arrested for a Mann Act violation crossing state lines for immoral purposes when she met the posse in Paint Rock, so she and Bates made groundless accusations of rape to deflect attention from their own sins. Throughout the four-hour cross, Price remained sarcastic, evasive, and venomous. She used her ignorance and poor memory to her advantage and proved to be a difficult witness to corner.
On re-direct, Price added a new dramatic and inflammatory elaboration to her : while she was being penetrated, she said, her attacker told her that when he pulled his "thing" out, "you will have a black baby. Bridges, the Scottsboro doctor who examined the girls less than two hours after the alleged rapes, was the next prosecution witness to take the stand. He turned out to be a better witness for the defense.
He did confirm that semen was found in the vaginas of the two girls more in the case of Bates than of Price. Leibowitz, however, was able to show on cross-examination that the girls were both calm, composed, and free of bleeding and vaginal damage. Moreover, the semen that Bridges examined was non-motile, even though sperm generally live from twelve to forty-eight hours after intercourse.
The prosecution's best moment came when Arthur Woodall, a member of the posse who searched the defendants at Paint Rock, was on the stand. Woodall testified that he had found a knife on one of the defendants, though he couldn't remember which one. Leibowitz asked Woodall if he had asked the boy whether it was his knife. Woodall said that he had, and that the boy said he had taken it "off the white girl, Victoria Price.
Liebowitz moved for a mistrial, but Judge Horton denied the motion and instead told jurors they should ignore Knight's reaction. The prosecution's only eyewitness to the crime was a farmer named Ory Dobbins who said he saw the defendants grab Price and Bates as they were about to leap from the train.
The credibility of the farmer's testimony was seriously damaged by Leibowitz on cross, when he asked how it was that Dobbins could even be sure, given the speed of the train and his considerable distance from it, that it was a woman that he saw. Dobbins answered, "She was wearing women's clothes. Defense witnesses were all called to serve a single purpose: to prove Price a liar and convince the jury that no rape had occurred aboard the Southern Railroad freight. Dallas Ramsey, a Chattanooga resident, testified that he saw Price in the hobo jungle she denied ever having visited.
George Chamlee, a Chattanooga attorney, testified that his investigation could turn up no evidence of a Callie Brochie or the boardinghouse that Price said she owned, and in which Price and Bates allegedly spent the night prior to her return train trip to Alabama. Six of the accused testified, including Willie Roberson, who testified that on the day of the alleged rape he was suffering from a serious case of venereal disease and was so weak that he could not walk without a cane, let alone leap from boxcar to boxcar as Price had claimed.
Ozie Powell proved Married wife looking real sex Scottsboro weakest of the accused on the stand, confused and bewildered when asked by Knight on cross to affirm or disaffirm answers he had given to prosecution questions at the first trial.
In an attempt to minimize the damage, Leibowitz asked only, when Knight's barrage was finished, "Ozie tell us about how much schooling you have had in your life? In desperation Knight asked Patterson, "Were you tried in Scottsboro? Lester Carter, the twenty-three-year-old traveling companion of Bates and Price, was one of the defense's most spectacular witnesses. Carter, who Price had denied having known until the day of the alleged crime, testified that he had met Bates, Price, and Prices' boyfriend Jack Tiller in a Huntsville hobo jungle the night before he would travel with the two girls to Chattanooga.
He told the jury that the night the four were together in the hobo jungle, and while he began making love to Ruby Bates while Price did the same with Tiller. Carter testified that two days later, on the return trip to Hunstville from Chattanooga, he jumped off the freight train when fighting broke out between blacks and the outed whites. The appearance of the defense's final and most dramatic witness, Ruby Bates, might have been taken from the script of a hokey Hollywood movie.
In the months before the trial, Bates' whereabouts were a mystery. Leibowitz announced that he was resting his case, then approached the bench and asked for a short recess. Minutes later National Guardsmen open the back doors of the courtroom, and -- to the astonished gasps of spectators and the dismay of Knight -- in walked Ruby Bates.
Under direct examination, Bates said a troubled conscience and the advice of famous New York minister Harry Emerson Fosdick prompted her to return to Alabama to tell the truth about what happened on March 25,Married wife looking real sex Scottsboro
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