Updated: May 13, 2019
The Scottsboro Boys were nine African American teenagers, ages 13 to 20, falsely accused in Alabama of raping two white women on a train in 1931.
The landmark set of legal cases from this incident dealt with racism and the right to a fair trial.
In 1936, Haywood Patterson was convicted of rape and sentenced to 75 years in prison. He escaped in 1949 and in 1950 was found in Michigan, but the governor refused to extradite him. In 1951 he was convicted of an assault and sentenced to prison, where he died of cancer in 1952.
In 1936, Ozie Powell was involved in an altercation with a guard and shot in the face, suffering permanent brain damage. In 1937 He pleaded guilty to assault, and the rape charges were dropped. He was paroled in 1946.
1937, Charlie Weems was convicted and sentenced to 105 years. He was paroled in 1943 after having been held in prison for a total of 12 years in some of Alabama's worst institutions.
1937, Andy Wright was convicted and sentenced to 99 years. He was paroled and returned to prison after violating parole. He was paroled in New York State in 1950.
1937, Clarence Norris was convicted of rape and was the only defendant sentenced to death. Governor Bibb Graves of Alabama in 1938 commuted his death sentence to life. Given parole in 1946, he "jumped" and went into hiding. In 1976 he was found in Brooklyn, New York. Governor George Wallace pardoned him that year, declaring him "not guilty". Norris published an autobiography, The Last of the Scottsboro Boys (1979). He died of Alzheimer's disease on January 23, 1989.
In 1937, the state dropped all charges for Willie Roberson, Olen Montgomery, Eugene Williams, and Roy Wright, who had already been in prison for six years.
Roy Wright had a career in the US Army and Merchant Marine. In 1959, believing his wife had been unfaithful during his tour, he shot and killed her, and shot himself, committing suicide.
2013, the state of Alabama issues posthumous pardons for Patterson, Weems, and Andy Wright.
Price was the star witness for the prosecution, but perfectly uncooperative with the defense. In response to Leibowitz's questions, she would reply, "I can't say" or "I can't remember." When asked if the model train he set up in court was similar to the one they had been riding on she said it was not, the train she rode on was much bigger. Along with his questions, Leibowitz introduced evidence that Price had been arrested for adultery and fornication in January of 1931.
"I want to tell you that the Scottsboro boys were framed by the bosses of the south and two girls. I was one of the girls and I want you to know that I am sorry I said what I did at the first trial, but I was forced to say it. Those boys did not attack me and I want to tell you all right here now that I am sorry that I caused them all this trouble for two years, and now I am willing to join hands with black and white to get them free." Bates even wrote to the defendants in prison and appeared at rallies with them when four were released in 1937.
After testifying for the defense, Bates could no longer stay in her community. She moved to Washington State in 1940, married Elmer Schut and called herself Lucille. She resurfaced in the 1970s to file a slander suit against NBC for its broadcast of the television movie Judge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys. Her husband died in October of 1976, and Ruby died a week later, just two days after Clarence Norris received his pardon from the State of Alabama.
Victoria Price (1911 - 1982): "I didn't lie in Scottsboro. I didn't lie in Decatur and I ain't lied here. I've told the truth all the way through and I'm a' gonna go on fighting 'til my dying day or 'til justice is done." 1976
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