The case of the Scottsboro Boys arose in Scottsboro, Alabama during the 1930s
Nine black youths, ranging in age from thirteen to twenty-one, accused of raping two white women, one of whom would later recant.
March 25, 1931: Fight between a group of black men and a group of white men riding in a train.
Nine black youths were arrested on charges of assault.
Two young white women dressed in boys' clothing — Victoria Price, 21, and Ruby Bates, 17 — were also found catching a free ride on the freight train. All were taken to Scottsboro, the Jackson County seat.
The two girls: unemployed mill workers and part-time prostitutes.
Said they had been brutally raped by the nine blacks .
Trial 12 days later
Kept in cells just feet away from the electric chair chamber where they were made to hear and smell the electrocutions of the other members of death row. (later deemed cruel and unusual punishment)
Milo Moody--a Tennessee lawyer unfamiliar with Alabama law, met with the boys for just 25 minutes before presenting case.
Some accounts said that he was drunk for the duration of the trials.
When called to testify, the boys began to blame and accuse each other , which made the case worse.
Haywood Patterson and the other 8 defendants were found guilty of raping the two white girls.
The case was overturned on appeal dues to lack of fair and adequate legal representation, and the retrial was moved from Scottsboro to Decatur, AL.
A well known lawyer, Samuel Liebowitz, from New York, came to the defense of the boys pro-bono.
The prosecuting lawyer was Thomas E. Knight, and Judge Edwin Horton presided.
In the November 1932, re-trials
Ruby Bates told the courts that she
and Victoria Price had not been raped by
the accused, explaining that the two had made up the story to avoid vagrancy charges (the prosecution accused her of being bought off by the Communist Party--which was supporting the defendants' case).
Later in the trials, a witness who owned a farm near the railways came forward, claiming to have seen the alleged crime take place. When asked if he could identify what the two girls were wearing, he stated that they were both wearing dresses, despite the fact it had been earlier established that they were both wearing overalls in an attempt to pass as male.
Medical examinations found the girls had no scarring indicating rape. In fact they were found to have engaged in consensual sex while traveling with the white men the night before.
Nevertheless, all of the defendants were found guilty for a second time and sentenced to death.
On June 22, 1933, Judge Horton threw out the verdict of the trial and subsequently lost his position as judge.
In July, 1937 Clarence Norris was convicted of rape and sexual assault and sentenced to death.
Andy Wright was convicted of rape and sentenced to 99 years.
Charlie Weems was convicted and sentenced to 75 years in prison.
Ozie Powell pleaded guilty to assaulting the sheriff and was sentenced to 20 years.
Four of the boys were released after all charges against them were dropped: Roy Wright and Eugene Williams who had been twelve and thirteen at the time of the alleged crime; Olen Montgomery, who was nearly blind and had been found alone in a car at the end of the train; and Willie Roberson, who when accused was suffering from syphilis.
Later, Governor of Alabama Bibb Graves reduced Clarence Norris' death sentence to life in prison. Norris was later pardoned by Governor George Wallace.
All of the Scottsboro Boys were eventually paroled, freed or pardoned, except for Haywood Patterson, who had been tried and convicted of rape and sentenced to the death penalty.
He escaped north to Detroit. When he was arrested more than 20 years later by the FBI in the 1950s, Gov. G. Mennen Williams of Michigan would not allow him to be extradited back to Alabama.
The Scottsboro Trial was the basis for Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird .