MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama's parole board wrote a new ending for the infamous "Scottsboro Boys" rape case Thursday by approving posthumous pardons more than 80 years after the arrests.
The board made the unanimous decision during a hearing in Montgomery for three black men — Haywood Patterson, Charles Weems and Andy Wright — whose convictions were never overturned in a case that came to symbolize racial injustice in the Deep South in the 1930s.
"Today, the Scottsboro Boys have finally received justice," Gov. Robert Bentley said.
Nine black males were falsely accused of raping two white women on a train in northeast Alabama in 1931. The men were convicted by all-white juries, and all but the youngest defendant was sentenced to death.
Five of the men's convictions were overturned in 1937 after one of the alleged victims recanted her story. One defendant, Clarence Norris, received a pardon before his death in 1976. At the time, he was the only Scottsboro Boy known to be alive. Nothing was done for the others because state law did not permit posthumous pardons.
In April, the Alabama Legislature passed a bill to allow the parole board to issue posthumous pardons for old cases where the convictions involved racial discrimination.
The Scottsboro Boys case became a symbol of the tragedies wrought by racial injustice. Their appeals resulted in U.S. Supreme Court rulings that criminal defendants are entitled to effective counsel and that blacks can't be systematically excluded from criminal juries.