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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Fall 2013

duct that occurred long before the statute went into effect. When weighed against the truth-seeking process, as was obvious by the content of the tape, it seemed clear that the suppression motion should be denied. Judge Garrett agreed and our jury was able to hear an admission out of Blanton’s own mouth. Interestingly, on appeal, Attorney General Pryor and his staff developed an even stronger argument. Overlooked in our efforts during the suppression hearing was a document from the FBI that indicated that the microphone had been placed “without trespass.” At trial, Ralph Butler, the FBI tech who installed the mike testified that when the wall was torn out from the apartment that the FBI rented next to Blanton, they discovered a small hole in Blanton’s wall. The microphone was then placed on the inside of the wall, not intruding into the Blanton residence. The evidence was critical to a review of the law that existed at the time in that a “bug” placed without any trespass was admissible under the 1928 case of Olmstead vs. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928), a theory that was upheld on appeal. “Capturing The Jury’s Focus: Setting Out A Theme In Black And White Special Interest umentaries. Seeing that such attempt to integrate the Birmingham City Schools would not work, a lawsuit, based on the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, was filed in federal court. That case and its ultimate outcome would set the stage for many events to follow. But the footage of the mob beating Rev. Shuttlesworth also had additional importance in the Cherry case. To the courtroom spectator, Bobby Frank Cherry appeared to be anybody’s grandfather: a 71 year-old man more comfortable wearing overalls in the garden than wearing a suit sitting in a courtroom. But witnesses identified Cherry in the thick of the mob attacking Rev. Shuttlesworth, even using what appeared to be brass knuckles. Thus, from opening arguments jurors were shown what Bobby Frank Cherry was like as a 33 year-old man in 1963: a member of the KKK, who resorted to violence to stop integration. Jurors also learned, through photographs and testimony, that 1963 and the months leading up to the bombing were pivotal times for the City of Birmingham. That spring, the famous Children’s Crusade was organized by Dr. King and others to integrate the public facilities of downtown Birmingham. The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church had already become a focal point for the civil rights movement in Birmingham, and it was where marchers gathered before facing Bull Connor’s fire hoses and dogs just outside. When a settlement was reached to begin the process of integrating Birmingham, Cherry and Blanton saw the first real cracks in their segregated way of life. As the civil rights movement gathered steam with the August, 1963 “March on Washington,” the federal lawsuit to integrate Birmingham Schools was coming to a close. Six years after the case began, the final orders were issued that forced After extensive jury work that included focus groups, a community attitude survey, a mock trial and use of juror questionnaires, we decided that the themes of both trials should take jurors on a journey back through history. It was a history that some of the jurors had lived, while others had only learned about it in school. Using black and white video footage and photographs, jurors were walked through the black and white world of 1960’s Birmingham. The black and white images were a constant, albeit subtle, reminder throughout the trial of a once segregated Birmingham. The journey started in 1957, when Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth attempted to enroll his children in the all-white Phillips High School. He was met by an angry mob of white men, about ten of whom proceeded to attack Rev. Shuttlesworth and his wife in front of the school. The scene was captured on 8mm film and is standard footage in most civil rights doc- Birmingham Bar Bulletin/ Fall 2013 19


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Fall 2013
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