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10 Controversial Court Cases

        Culture | Lawsuits

Court Case 2: The Scottsboro Boys Trial

1931: A poster advertising a defense meeting for Haywood Patterson, one of the Scottsboro Boys.
1931: A poster advertising a defense meeting for Haywood Patterson, one of the Scottsboro Boys.

Year: 1931

Charge: Assault and rape

Plea: Not guilty

Verdict: Guilty

­The Scottsboro Boys Trial represents one of Amer­ican history's darkest chapters. Nine young black men ranging in ages from 13 to 20 years old were arrested on March 25, 1931, for assault charges resulting from a fight that broke out on a freight train in Paint Rock, Ala. Two white women on the train -- Victoria Price and Ruby Bates (who later confessed that she lied) -- also claimed rape by the group of men.

Once the boys were taken into police custody in Scottsboro, Ala., the white community rioted outside of the jail, calling for punishment. Within five days, on March 30, the boys were indicted by a grand jury. By April 9, all but the youngest of the group had been sentenced to death by all-white juries.

The case moved to the Alabama Supreme Court in 1932, which upheld the previous convictions. Then, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case, ruling that the defendants' rights had not been upheld, which sent the case back for retrial.

­After three trials and six years in prison, the charges were dropped for four of the boys: ­Willie Roberson, Olen Montgomery, Eugene Williams and Roy Wright. The other five -- Charles Weems, Ozie Powell, Clarence Norris, Andy Wright and Haywood Patterson -- remained in prison and were eventually released on parole years later.


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