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Alabama Opens Way for Scottsboro Boys Pardon in Rape Case

Eight black teens who were convicted 82 years ago by an all-white jury of raping two white women in Alabama can now be posthumously pardoned by the state.

Republican Governor Robert Bentley, 70, has signed legislation allowing the pardons of the so-called Scottsboro Boys, saying he wanted to “right this wrong,” the Associated Press said yesterday. Bentley has said he wanted to close a chapter of state history that led to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision against excluding blacks from juries.

The gubernatorially appointed Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole must approve any pardon petition submitted for the dead men. The news service said Bentley aides delivered the signed legislation to the Secretary of State’s office yesterday, citing a spokeswoman it didn’t identify. Until now, state law didn’t allow posthumous pardons.

The case originated during the Depression, in 1931, after a fight between two groups of teens -- one black, one white -- riding illegally on a train in northern Alabama.

The white riders complained to police, who searched the train and found nine black boys and two white women, both of whom later said they were raped.

Eight of the nine teens were sentenced to death. They became known as the Scottsboro Boys because they were convicted in a town in Alabama with that name.

Both women were discredited during a series of appeals, and one later recanted her claim. None of the eight were executed. All have since died, including the last of the Scottsboro Boys, Clarence Norris, in 1989.

Bentley plans a ceremonial bill signing April 19 in Scottsboro with the people who had worked to get the pardon legislation passed, according to the Associated Press. The news service said the governor had to sign the bill earlier to meet a deadline to act on measures passed by the legislature.

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