- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2002

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) A mostly white jury panel was seated yesterday for the murder trial of a former Ku Klux Klansman in one of the most notorious crimes of the civil rights era: the 1963 church bombing that killed four black girls.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys picked 12 whites and four blacks for the trial of Bobby Frank Cherry, 71. Which four will be alternates rather than members of the 12-person jury will not be disclosed until later. Opening statements are scheduled for today.
Mr. Cherry, who lives in Mabank, Texas, is accused of helping fellow Klansmen plant dynamite outside the 16th Street Baptist Church, which was a rallying site for demonstrators seeking an end to segregation.
Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson, all 14, and Denise McNair, 11, were killed as they got ready for a Sunday morning service on Sept. 15, 1963. It was the deadliest act of violence during the civil rights era.
Mr. Cherry could get life in prison if convicted. He sat silently in court yesterday, with an American flag pin on the lapel of his dark suit.
The jury is made up of nine white women, three white men and four black men. One of Mr. Cherry's defense attorneys, Mickey Johnson, said their selection was based on more than race.
"I don't think the breakdown on racial lines will be as important as people think it will be," he said after the judge lifted a gag order imposed during jury selection.
Prosecutor Doug Jones said he was pleased with the jury. "You try to strike a fair jury, and that's what we believe we have done," he said.
Circuit Judge James Garrett had previously ruled that Mr. Cherry was not mentally competent for trial, but he changed his mind in January after experts concluded Mr. Cherry was faking mental illness.
The retired trucker was part of a group of Klansmen questioned by the FBI within days of the blast. But it was not until August 2000 that he was indicted, along with ex-Klansman Thomas Blanton Jr.
Blanton was found guilty last year and is serving a life sentence. Another Klansman, Robert Chambliss, was convicted in the bombing in 1977 and died in prison. A fourth suspect, Herman Cash, died without being charged.


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