- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 21, 2002

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) A former Klansman accused in a 1963 church bombing wasn't with other Klansmen the night before the attack that killed four black girls, a witness testified yesterday as the defense rested.
Bill Jackson said he didn't see Bobby Frank Cherry, 71, with the two other men subsequently convicted of murder in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and didn't see him at a Klan recruitment meeting he went to about that same time.
"I met him this morning for the very first time," said Mr. Jackson, who testified in the trials that resulted in guilty verdicts against Thomas Blanton Jr. and Robert "Dynamite Bob" Chambliss.
Final statements were set for today in the trial of Mr. Cherry, accused of helping a band of Klansmen plant a powerful bomb that exploded at the church, where civil rights demonstrators had been gathering for protests against segregation.
In the earlier trials, Mr. Jackson told of seeing Blanton and Chambliss putting something in Blanton's car at Modern Sign Co. the night before the explosion.
Two of Mr. Cherry's grandsons, Glenn Belcher and Bobby Wayne Cherry Jr., also testified yesterday they had lived with Mr. Cherry for some time and never heard him talk about bombing the church or boast of being in the Klan. Bobby Wayne Cherry said he did hear his grandfather use a racial slur.
An ex-wife and four others testified last week they heard Mr. Cherry admit taking part in the bombing.
Mr. Cherry's attorneys say the witnesses lied and the government built the case on a lie told by an informant in 1964.
"I didn't hear any two [witnesses] say the same story," defense attorney Mickey Johnson said outside court.
Government lawyers acknowledged inconsistencies with their case, but they described such problems as routine, particularly in an old case in which memories have faded.
"There's inconsistencies in every case. It's the jury's job to reconcile it," said Doug Jones, the lead prosecutor.
The bombing was the deadliest attack against the civil rights movement, and Mr. Cherry is the last suspect to stand trial.
The blast killed Denise McNair, 11, along with Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, all 14.
A central claim of Mr. Cherry's defense revolves around a statement made by former FBI informant Mary Frances Cunningham in 1964, more than a year after the bombing.
Miss Cunningham said she saw Mr. Cherry and three other Klan suspects sitting in a car near the church the morning of the bombing.
Mr. Cherry got out of the vehicle and put the bomb by the building, according to her statement.
Miss Cunningham testified for the defense on Saturday, denying she made the statement to the FBI. Prosecutors previously acknowledged Miss Cunningham's statement was untrue.
Mr. Cherry and Thomas Blanton Jr. were indicted in the bombing in 2000, and Blanton is serving a life term after being convicted last year. Mr. Cherry's trial was delayed by questions over his mental competence.
Robert Chambliss was convicted of murder in 1977 and died in prison, and a fourth Klan suspect died in 1994 without being charged in the bombing.


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