A KKK member received a reprieve from Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, who blamed a budget shortfall for the delay.
Then-Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore delayed the 2002 murder trial of a KKK member accused of killing four black girls in a Birmingham, Alabama church bombing in 1963.
The Klansman, Bobby Frank Cherry, was able to avoid arrest for decades. And thanks to a little help from the newly-elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Cherry was able to delay justice a little while longer.
In April 2002, Moore “ordered the shutdown” of Cherry’s trial, citing insufficient funds. The state’s court system had a budget gap of just $2.7 million, triggering Moore’s decision. The state Legislature allocated $122 million for the court system, but Moore claimed it needed $124.7 million, according to the Birmingham News.
Moore was accused of playing politics. “We simply do not have the money,” Moore reportedly said. “We can’t do anything when we don’t have the money.”
Worse still for Moore is that just months earlier, Moore had fought for pay raises for himself and his colleagues. Moore “strongly defended the pay hike,” according to the Birmingham News, despite the fact that Alabama judges were among the highest paid in the country at the time. At the time, Moore made $153,968 in annual salary. Two of his colleagues, Douglas Johnstone and Gorman Houston, topped the salary list for U.S. judges.
“The raises are an outrage, especially considering the critical needs and financial distress the state faces in other areas,” the Birmingham News editorial board wrote in 2001.
And yet, months later, Moore delayed the trial of a Klansman, citing the budget shortfall.
“This is not a contrived situation,” Moore said at the time.
The Associated Press reported that commissioners in Jefferson County, home to Birmingham and the site of Cherry’s trial, had approved $272,000 to pay jurors for Cherry’s trial along with many others, to avoid Moore’s shutdown.
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