Editorial: Pardons long overdue — Scottsboro Boys’ case caught up in modern plight of state government
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Oct 08, 2013 | 2131 views |  0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In this April 6, 1933 file photo, four of the Scottsboro Boys prisoners are escorted under heavily-armed guards into the Decatur, Ala. courtroom. Photo: The Associated Press
In this April 6, 1933 file photo, four of the Scottsboro Boys prisoners are escorted under heavily-armed guards into the Decatur, Ala. courtroom. Photo: The Associated Press
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It’s convenient to say that only in Alabama can an underfunded 21st-century judicial system bog down the righting of a historical wrong in the civil rights South.

But it is true, nonetheless. Alabama can’t escape its past that easily.

It’s been more than eight decades since the nine black teenagers known as the Scottsboro Boys were accused of raping two white women on a train in Jackson County. To many, their case was an ironclad example of the type of flimsy justice blacks, particularly black men, received in the Jim Crow South.

After all these years and the disintegration of the case against them, the now-deceased Scottsboro Boys deserve pardoning from the state of Alabama.

They will get it, we believe. The process is in motion. In fact, Star reporter Tim Lockette wrote Tuesday of how advocates for the Scottsboro Boys say the petition for the pardon was mailed last Friday to the state Pardons and Parole Board — which, thanks in part to its underfunding, has a three-year backlog of case files to weed through.

When the pardon will occur is another matter. The overworked three-person board can only do so much on the three days a week it meets, and it hears about 90 cases a day. Yet, it’s good to learn that the board doesn’t view this historical matter as a time-waster caused by meddlesome advocates.

“It’s not burdensome,” Eddie Cook, assistant director of the pardons and paroles board, told The Star. “The way the law was drafted, in a case where there’s blatant evidence of racial bias, a posthumous pardon is possible. When a case meets those criteria, it should be addressed.”

We wholeheartedly agree.

In some ways, this intersection of history and the modern realities of state government serve a twin purpose — to bring final justice for the Boys and to highlight the myriad ways governing done on the cheap is a lousy, inefficient way to run Alabama’s operations.

Through the years, this page has shown examples of how underfunded state agencies and departments are harmful to Alabamians’ quality of life. Whether it’s poorly funded public schools, cuts to higher education budgets, shuttered crime labs, reduced hours at the state archives or the closing of state-funded museums, the reductions add up. You get what you pay for, and in Alabama that combines into a sour mixture.

After all these years, the Scottsboro Boys can wait a bit longer for their pardon. That state government can’t push through their case with speed their case deserves is oh, so, Alabama.
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