Birmingham Church |Bomber Denied Parole

     (CN) – A Klansman convicted in the infamous bombing a Birmingham, Ala., church in 1963 that left four black girls dead was denied parole on Wednesday morning by the state’s board of pardons and paroles.
     Thomas Blanton, 78, was convicted in 2001 for the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in downtown Birmingham. The incident resulted in the deaths of four young black girls who attended the church.
     Blanton was sentenced to serve four life sentences for his role in the crime, which occurred in the midst of the civil rights movement.
     The four victims of the bombing were Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair.
     Two other convictions stemmed from the bombing, including the 1977 conviction of Robert Chambliss, and the 2002 conviction of Bobby Frank Cherry. A fourth suspect in the incident was never charged. Chambliss and Cherry both died while serving out their sentences in prison.
     The possibility of Blanton’s parole was an emotional one for family members as well as prosecutors, who fought for years to put Blanton behind bars.
     Speaking in opposition to the parole, Lisa McNair, the younger sister of victim Denise McNair, said her family has had to endure a “legacy of pain” as a result of the bombing.
     “I’ve had to watch my parents and their grief all of my life,” said McNair.
     “I believe that he should continue to serve his justice in prison for the rest of his life,” McNair continued. “He is serving four life terms, and he should continue to serve the four life terms.”
     Former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, who prosecuted the Blanton case, testified to the bombing’s effect within “the greater community.”
     “People could not understand why — even in a city like Birmingham was at the time, a violent, racial city — that a bomb could be placed in a house of God, killing four innocent children,” Jones said. “While I can’t pretend to know the pain of the family, I can attest to the pain that the community has suffered and that the state has suffered.”
     Jones also highlighted the fact that Blanton managed to avoid arrest for many years before being held accountable for his actions.
     “The message is that we have to stop the hate, and we will punish those who kill or maim in the name of hate,” Jones said.
     Following the denial of Blanton’s parole, Chairman Cliff Walker expressed his condolences to the family members of the victims who were in attendance.
     “We are definitely sorry for your loss,” said Walker.
     Blanton, who is serving his time at the St. Clair Correctional Facility, will be eligible for parole again in five years.

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