April 11, 2013

By TAMI ABDOLLAH  Associated Press

 

When Los Angeles cold case detectives caught up with Samuel Little this past fall, he was living in a Christian shelter in Kentucky, his latest arrest a few months earlier for alleged possession of a crack pipe. But the LA investigators wanted him on far more serious charges: The slayings of two women in 1989, both found strangled and nude below the waist — victims of what police concluded had been sexually motivated strangulations.

Little's name came up, police said, after DNA evidence collected at old crime scenes matched samples of his stored in a criminal database. After detectives say they found yet another match, a third murder charge was soon added against Little.

Now, as the 72-year-old former boxer and transient awaits trial in Los Angeles, authorities in numerous jurisdictions in California, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and Ohio are scouring their own cold case files for possible ties to Little. One old murder case, in Pascagoula, Miss., already has been reopened. DNA results are pending in some others.

Little's more than 100-page rap sheet details crimes in 24 states spread over 56 years — mostly assault, burglary, armed robbery, shoplifting and drug violations. In that time, authorities say incredulously, he served less than 10 years in prison.

But Los Angeles detectives allege he was also a serial killer, who traveled the country preying on prostitutes, drug addicts and troubled women.

They assert Little often delivered a knockout punch to women and then proceeded to strangle them while masturbating, dumping the bodies and soon after leaving town. Their investigation has turned up a number of cases in which he was a suspect or convicted.

Police are using those old cases — and tracking down surviving victims — to help build their own against Little.

"We see a pattern, and the pattern matches what he's got away with in the past," said LAPD Detective Mitzi Roberts.

Little has pleaded not guilty in the three LA slayings, and in interviews with detectives after his September arrest he described his police record as "dismissed, not guilty, dismissed."

"I just be in the wrong place at the wrong time with people," he said, according to an interview transcript reviewed by The Associated Press.

Still, as more details emerge, so do more questions. Among them: How did someone with so many encounters with the law, suspected by prosecutors and police officers of killing for decades, manage to escape serious jail time?

"It's the craziest rap sheet I've ever seen," said Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman, who has worked many serial killer cold cases. "The fact that he hasn't spent a more significant period of his life (in custody) is a shocking thing. He's gotten break after break after break."

Deputy Public Defender Michael Pentz, who represents Little, declined to comment.

Authorities have pieced together a 24-page timeline tracking Little's activity across the country since his birth. His rap sheet has helped them pinpoint his location sometimes on a monthly basis. Law enforcement agencies are now cross-referencing that timeline with cold case slayings in their states.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is leading a review of that state's unsolved murders and helping coordinate the effort among 12 jurisdictions. The department published an intelligence bulletin alerting authorities in Florida, Alabama and Georgia about Little's case, noting he lived in the area on and off in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

"We strongly encouraged them to look at any unresolved homicides that they had during those time frames and then consider him as a potential suspect," said Jeff Fortier, a special agent supervisor at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The department is re-examining DNA evidence in about 15 cases that was collected before advances in forensic science allowed for thorough analysis, Fortier said.

"We are in the infancy stages of what we expect will be a protracted investigation," he said.

In Mississippi, Pascagoula cold case Detective Darren Versiga is re-investigating the killing of Melinda LaPree, a 22-year-old prostitute found strangled in 1982. Little had been arrested in that crime but never indicted, Versiga said. The detective has tracked down old witnesses and is working to reconstruct the case file because much of it was washed away during Hurricane Katrina.

Little, who often went by the name Samuel McDowell, grew up with his grandmother in Lorain, Ohio. His rap sheet shows his first arrest at age 16 on burglary charges. After serving time in a youth authority he was released and, months later, arrested again for breaking and entering.

In an hour- and 15-minute interview with Los Angeles detectives, Little spoke openly about his past and his time in the penitentiary, where he started boxing as a middleweight against the other inmates. "I used to be a prizefighter," he said.

In his late 20s, Little went to live with his mother in Florida and worked at the Dade County Department of Sanitation and, later, at a cemetery. Soon, he began traveling more widely and had more run-ins with the law; between 1971 and 1974 Little was arrested in eight states for crimes that included armed robbery, rape, theft, solicitation of a prostitute, shoplifting, DUI, aggravated assault on a police officer and fraud.

"I've been in and out of the penitentiary," he told the California officers.

"Well, for what?" a detective asked, to which Little responded: "Shoplifting and, uh, petty thefts and stuff."

Then came the 911 call of Sept. 11, 1976, in Sunset Hills, Mo.

Pamela Kay Smith was banging on the back door of a home, crying for help, naked below the waist with her hands bound behind her back with electrical cord and cloth. Smith, who was a drug addict, told officers that she was picked up by Little in St. Louis. She said he choked her from behind with electrical cord, forced her into his car, beat her unconscious, then drove to Sunset Hills and raped her.

Officers found Little, then 36, still seated in his car near the home where Smith sought refuge, with her jewelry and clothing inside. Little denied raping Smith, telling officers: "I only beat her." The case summary was recalled in court papers filed by prosecutors in Los Angeles.

Little was found guilty of assault with the intent to ravish-rape and was sentenced to three months in county jail. Pascagoula Detective Versiga, who reviewed the Smith case, believes Little may have pleaded to a lesser charge and received a shorter sentence because of the victim's lifestyle. The case file refers to Smith as a heroin addict who often failed to appear in court.

After that, the charges against Little grew more serious.

In Pascagoula, LaPree went missing in September 1982 after getting into a wood-paneled station wagon with a man witnesses later identified as Little. A month later her remains were found, and Little was arrested in her killing and the assault of two other prostitutes. Versiga believes grand jurors failed to indict in part because of the difficulty in determining a precise time of death but also because of credibility problems due to the victim and witnesses working as prostitutes.

Little, nevertheless, remained in custody and was extradited to Florida to be tried in the case of another slain woman.

Patricia Ann Mount, 26 and mentally disabled, was found dead in the fall of 1982 in rural Forest Grove, Fla., near Gainesville. Eyewitnesses described last seeing her leaving a beer tavern with a man identified as Little in a wood-paneled station wagon.

According to The Gainesville Sun's coverage of the trial, a fiber analyst testified that hairs found on Mount's clothes "had the same characteristics as head hairs taken from" Little. But when cross-examined the analyst said "it was also possible for hairs to be transferred if two people bumped together."

A jury acquitted Little in January 1984.

By October 1984, Little was back in custody — this time in San Diego, accused in the attempted murder of two prostitutes who were kidnapped a month apart, driven to the same abandoned dirt lot, assaulted and choked. The first woman was left unconscious on a pile of trash but survived, according to court records. Patrol officers discovered Little in a car with the second woman and arrested him.

The two cases were tried jointly, but the jury failed to reach a verdict. Little later pleaded guilty to lesser charges of assault with great bodily injury and false imprisonment. He served about 2.5 years on a four-year sentence and, in February 1987, he was released on parole.

As he told the LA detectives in his interview, Little then moved to Los Angeles, where three more women were soon discovered dead: Carol Alford, 41, found on July 13, 1987; Audrey Nelson, 35, found on Aug. 14, 1989; and Guadalupe Apodaca, 46, found on Sept. 3, 1989. All were manually strangled.

It is for those slayings that Little now stands charged. No trial date has been set, though Little is due back in court this month for a procedural hearing. If convicted, Little would face a minimum of life in prison without parole, though prosecutors said they may seek the death penalty.

When the case landed on Detective Roberts' desk, she had no idea it would grow from two local cold case slayings to a cross-country probe into the past of a man with some 75 arrests. As she studied her suspect, Roberts also began calling agencies that had dealt with Little most recently.

He had been arrested on May 1, 2012, by sheriff's deputies in Lake Charles, La., for possession of a crack pipe and released with an upcoming court date. At Roberts' request, deputies tried finding him but came up empty. Then last September deputies called with a hit tracing an ATM purchase by Little to a Louisville, Ky., minimart. Within hours he was found at a nearby shelter.

In his interview with police, Little said he didn't recognize the slain LA women. Detectives said that DNA collected from semen on upper body clothing or from fingernail scrapings connect him to the crimes.

Roberts and others who've investigated Little through the years said some cases may not have gone forward because DNA testing wasn't available until the mid-1980s and, even when it was, wouldn't have been useful in these cases unless authorities tested clothing, fingernails or body swabs. Due to this perpetrator's particular modus operandi, DNA wouldn't necessarily be found through standard rape kit collection.

Even in those cases that did go to trial, they said, jurors may have found the victims less credible because of their backgrounds, and the witnesses — often prostitutes — in some cases disappeared. Because Little was also a transient, Roberts said: "I don't think he stuck in a lot of peoples' minds much."

"But what's different now, we're just not going to allow that to happen," she said. "I think we owe it to the victims. I think we owe it to the families."

Tony Zambrano was 17 when he learned his mother, Guadalupe Apodaca, was killed after going out for a drink one night.

"My brother told me she left, she went to go have a couple beers, and never came home," he recalls. Soon after he learned of her slaying.

For years Zambrano tried to find out what happened to his mother. When Roberts called him following Little's arrest, he was grateful. But he's also upset.

"My mom shouldn't really be dead now. For all those charges in San Diego, who gets four years?" Zambrano said. "This thing ain't over for a long shot."

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

April 11, 2013

By Jesse Muhammad

Special to the NNPA from

The Final Call

 

(FinalCall.com) – If you have monitored the Twitter account of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan over the past two years as closely as some of us have, then you would have noticed something major that occurred recently.

His number of Twitter followers dropped by over 20,000 within a 48-hour period!

Before you chalk this up as merely a “glitch in the matrix” or another so-called Nation of Islam conspiracy theory (smile), let’s examine what occurred just before this loss of followers.

In a February 9 chess move, unforeseen by his enemies, Minister Farrakhan flew to Los Angeles to have lunch with Grammy award-winning singer Mary J. Blige and her husband Kendu Isaacs. This was done in the midst of controversy stemming from the release of the Lifetime film, Betty and Coretta.

He followed that up by posting sharp responses to questions from social media related to Betty and Coretta and the assassination of Malcolm X. “I did not kill Malcolm X,” he tweeted.

Minister Farrakhan also released exclusive photos via his Twitter account and FinalCall.com from what he described as a “joyous lunch with my good friend Mary J. Blige and her husband.”

All of this and more was used to infiltrate the #BettyandCoretta Twitter hashtag and resulted in a critical takeover of the online dialogue. The information was continuing to spread and digital warfare had been waged by the Nation of Islam social media army and its supporters.

On Feb. 11, Hip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons had his website GlobalGrind.com post the images of Minister Farrakhan and Mary J. Blige to let readers know that there was no beef between the two. He then tweeted to his 2.5 million followers, “Guess the rumors about @LouisFarrakhan and @MaryJBlige are false.”

Later that same day, Wyclef tweeted to his 3 million followers, “I love the unity being exhibited by @LouisFarrakhan and @MarjBlige to dispel the rumors!”

Then on the afternoon of Feb. 12, Mary J. Blige tweeted this beautiful message to her 3.5 million followers: “Thank you @LouisFarrakhan for spending time with us and sharing your words of wisdom with us. We love you so much.”

That’s a combined nine million Twitter followers between those celebrities who publicly mentioned Minister Farrakhan, who had over 170,000 followers at that time.

Within a few hours of Mary J. Blige’s tweet, the follower count for Minister Farrakhan started rapidly declining by the hundreds, then the thousands.

We filed multiple complaints via Twitter’s ticketing page. And even a supporter of Minister Farrakhan, who is considered a social media guru, sent an e-mail on our behalf directly to his contact at Twitter, Inc. to expedite the investigation.

Within a week, Minister Farrakhan’s account had dipped to nearly 141,000 followers.

Now over a month later of continuous email exchanges, the only responses and explanations we have been provided from Twitter Support are “users with large amounts of followers often have following numbers that fluctuate a great deal” and “we don’t currently have any known issues or bugs involving follower counts. It’s common to see some regular attrition of followers.”

The fact that Minister Farrakhan’s account has never experienced such a drop in followers like this in his two years of tweeting and that we do not own this social media site, it’s very difficult to accept this on face value.

It’s a shame this beautiful man can’t even have a Twitter page without something like this occurring. He has sacrificed countless hours responding to thousands of questions tweeted to him by his followers. It’s not out of vanity, it’s born out of his love to meet people where they are in hopes of providing life-saving guidance and warning.

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone on Twitter delivering the type of divine wisdom in tweets like Minister Farrakhan’s #AskFarrakhan chats. If you’re not following him on Twitter, you’re missing out greatly. He is striving to get God’s Way trending in our thoughts and actions.

Thus far one victory has been secured in the midst of this digital debacle. Twitter decided to give Minister Farrakhan a blue verification seal for his page. This is something afforded mostly to important figures. We had been fighting for this as well, yet it took this incident for it to finally happen.

How can you help? Follow these four easy steps:

1) Go to www.Twitter.com and Sign up for an account.

2) Check your e-mail for the verification link

3) Sign-in and go to Minister Farrakhan’s page http://twitter.com/LouisFarrakhan and click the “Follow” button.

4) Invite all of your Twitter followers and Facebook friends to follow him.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

April 11, 2013

By MARK KENNEDY

Associated Press

 

NEW YORK (AP) — Every performer has a special routine before hitting the stage. For the last few months, you may have found Deborah Cox singing into a computer.

The actress and singer was on a 25-week national tour with “Jekyll & Hyde,” which meant being apart from her husband and three young children back in Florida.

So before the curtain went up in places like Philadelphia or Dallas, Cox would sing lullabies to her oldest, 9-year-old Isaiah, who would take a computer to bed to hear mommy.

“That was the hardest thing when I made the decision to go out on the road: It would mean not being with them the way I want to,” she says, tearing up. “It was a tough time. Tough time. Tough time. Oh, I’m getting emotional.”

Those pre-curtain check-ins are still necessary, but the grueling road trip is thankfully over. A battle-tested “Jekyll & Hyde” has rolled into Broadway and opens this month at the Marquis Theatre.

“It’s the end of the road and the beginning of a new chapter,” Cox says in her new dressing room, a lit candle flickering on a coffee table and two newly delivered trunks with clothes and “lots of shoes” awaiting unpacking.

“It really tests your faith and your decision-making. But it makes you better. I’m a better performer because of it. I can handle anything now, I think,” she says. “We thugged it out, and grinded it out. And now we’re here.”

Cox seems the opposite of a diva, even though she has every right to be one. A slender beauty with a powerful voice, she is a Grammy Award nominee with six top 20 Billboard R&B singles.

She’s also a self-confessed introvert who adores foot massages and cheers with delight when drag queens sing her songs back to her. Cox, who turns 40 in July, has paid her dues and works hard. When it’s pointed out that her dressing room is labeled No. 2, she replies: “It has hardwood floors, so it’s No. 1 to me.”

In the musical, Cox plays Lucy, a brothel worker who is a love interest for both Jekyll and Hyde — the dual title role played by Constantine Maroulis — and belts out several songs including a sassy “Bring on the Men” and the torch song “Someone Like You.”

“It’s one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever done. She’s such an extrovert and so uninhibited and so sexy and such a vampy woman. It’s just a totally different character from who I am,” she says.

“I’m more introverted. I’m more a hopeless romantic. I’m much more positive and easygoing and non-confrontational. And Lucy is the complete opposite. I’m much more laid-back.”

A knack for music came early for the Toronto-raised Cox, who recalls adoring Disney movies like “Snow White” and listening to her mom's favorite singers, from Dinah Wash­ington to Billie Holiday.

“Billie Holiday’s voice to me was like the first character voice. She was like this woman who was wounded. Her voice just sounded exactly like how she looked. That’s where it all started.”

Cox sang commercials, did studio work and joined every band she could, from jazz to calypso. She landed a spot as a backup singer for Celine Dion, and when Dion’s tour pulled into Los Angeles for a “Tonight Show” appearance, Cox and her manager (and soon-to-be husband, Lascelles Stephens) managed to get a demo cassette to record producer Clive Davis.

Weeks later, they all met at the Beverly Hills Hotel and Cox was soon signed to Arista Records, which also was home to Whitney Houston, one of her idols.

“People always ask me, ‘How was it being on the same label as Whitney? What were the expectations?’ It’s kind of hard to come out expecting to sell 10 million records on your first album,” she says, laughing. “Can we just get the record out?”

Cox has released six albums since 1995, with perhaps her most famous single being “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here.” She’s sung for President Barack Obama, and she made her Broadway debut in the lead role in Elton John and Tim Rice’s musical “Aida.”

But lately Cox has grown disillusioned with the singles-driven, fragmented music business. She thinks audiences aren’t getting a chance to know artists.

“It’s less about artistic development and the music and what an artist brings to the table and it’s more about celebrity. That’s a completely different journey now,” she says. “You can become a celebrity just by merely doing a sex tape or walking around naked.”

The opportunity to return to Broadway came via the Frank Wildhorn-composed musical “Jekyll & Hyde.” Though she hadn’t seen any of his shows, Cox was very familiar with his pop songs, including Houston’s recording of “Where Do Broken Hearts Go.”

“Here I am sort of in transition myself, looking for a great project to sink my teeth into and here comes ‘Jekyll & Hyde,’” she says. How often does a role like this come up? For a black woman that doesn’t deal with race? That just deals with a woman falling in love? That gets to sing incredible songs every night? It’s a dream come true.”

For his part, Wildhorn is happy he landed such a bona fide star to sing his songs on Broadway. “She’s so soulful. She’s got a real sadness in her voice,” he says.

Cox is settling into her New York routine and is already cooking up new music. Her single “Higher” was just released, and she’s planning a dance version of “Someone Like You” soon. She even has a project waiting in the wings: starring in a musical about Josephine Baker.

“I think I found my rhythm now,” she says with a big smile.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

April 11, 2013

By Barrington M. Salmon

Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

So last Friday’s panel discussion with three presidents and a prime minister at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) was a breath of fresh air because an audience of several hundred heard the leaders talk about their efforts to institute and strengthen good governance, the rule of law, and transparency. The leaders took part in a wide-ranging discussion entitled, “Consolidating Democratic Gains, Promoting African Prosperity” at USIP in Northwest, at a function that was televised live and on Twitter.

“The Africa of today is far from the cliches of war, famines and coups,” said Senegalese President Macky Sall. “We’re moving toward democracy and growth. We’re the cradle of mankind, a magical continent with diversity and resources. Africa today is a continent on the march.”

Sall was joined by Presidents Ernest Bai Koroma and Joyce Banda and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves. Each detailed their governments’ roles in fostering the social and economic upswings of their respective countries, the seemingly intractable challenges and their vision of an independent, self-sufficient and transformed Africa during what moderator Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnny Carson called “a very stimulating and delightful” conversation.

“They’re here because of the contributions they’ve made to strengthen democratic institutions in their countries,” said Carson, who retired from the State Department on Friday, March 29. “They have developed independent judiciaries, free press and vibrant economies to protect their democracies. Sierra Leone held free, fair and credible elections where 90 percent of the citizens participated peacefully.”

“This was the second term for President Koroma to continue his agenda for prosperity. The economy is expanding rapidly.”

The quartet was invited to the White House by President Barack Obama on Thursday, March 28 because of what Obama said was recognition of the fact that each leader had “undertaken significant efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, protect and expand human rights and civil liberties, and increase economic opportunities for their people.”

Carson spoke of Sall’s election a year ago, and the instability and economic contraction surrounding his predecessor’s attempts to secure a controversial third term. Since then, Sall has instituted economic reforms, worked to reduce conflict, unrest and tension in the southern Casamance region. In fact, Carson said, Senegal’s economy is expected to grow by five percent this year.

Sall prompted laughter when he said he was putting one of the two presidential jets up for sale but with no takers, may have to offer it to a museum. Both he and Banda said they have scaled back on ministerial perks and she has gotten rid of fleets of vehicles as well.

Banda was the vice president in President Binguwa Mutharika’s government until he died suddenly in April 2012. Mutharika dismissed Banda and attempted to appoint his brother leader of his political party and Malawi’s next president. When he died, some in the cabinet, his wife and others questioned Banda’s legitimacy to succeed Mutharika even though the constitution was clear on succession. Banda is said to have called Malawi’s army commander who agreed to support her and stationed troops around her home. She also acknowledged America’s role behind the scenes in ensuring her ascension to the presidency.

Toward the end of his presidency, Mutharika managed to alienate the U.S., Britain, the European Union, the World Bank and other lending institutions and all, including some other European countries suspended financial assistance. His critics expressed concern about his erratic policies and actions that threatened Malawi’s democratic institutions.

“One year ago, she implemented tough political and economic reforms, including a currency devaluation, and removed price controls for fuel,” Carson explained. “In the first 100 days, she turned the country around. The economy has expanded and continues to grow.”

Banda, who has been involved in women’s issues for 30 years, said a number of austerity measures and policy proposals that she’s enacted have been deeply disliked but vowed to continue even if it costs her personally.

“We’re on track, strengthening government institutions and increasing the level of comfort for donors to return,” she said. “The 100 days was used to also improve relations with our neighbors. I reversed all the laws that were not good and in July 2012, we started a national dialogue on the economy. Using mining, energy, tourism, infrastructure and agriculture, we will be able to create wealth for Malawians.

“For 14 months, we have implemented a very, very unpopular reform program. I should have backtracked because elections are next year but it’s OK …”

Koroma is guiding a country that still bears the scars of a brutal civil war that ended in 2002. He spoke of developing institutions to foster democratic change, such as the Independent Media Commission and the National Commission on Democracy, the work undertaken to bolster the economy and critical sectors such as mining and agriculture and restructuring police and security forces so they adhere to human rights standards. Despite the challenges, he said he’s pleased with the progress.

“What we take pride in is that we’re committed to moving forward,” he said. “We have peace and a rapidly developing country … we’ve built on the peace and positioned ourselves for growth. This is why we believe that Sierra Leone is no longer a country of blood diamonds … I believe that Sierra Leone is on the move.”

Neves presides over a string of islands – Cape Verde – off the coast of West Africa that have been lauded by Obama and other administration officials for fostering a favorable environment for investment, for its high and steady economic growth and for having one of the highest literacy rates in the world.

“I think that in order to ensure continuity, we must respect scrupulously the rules of the game,” said Neves, in answer to a question about keeping democracy on-track. “We must build consensus on the issues and we must strengthen the social dialogue with unions, businesses and management. By carrying out a government of rules, governments become more legitimate every day. They must provide answers to social needs, develop new channels of access and ensure that civil society has room to develop and grow.”

Neves said it is critical to cater to the needs of young people and women, adding that every African country’s success is tied to including them in all aspects of the country’s growth and development in ways that go well beyond lip service.

“We must invest in education, university training and professional and technical training to create conditions so that they can be employed,” he said primarily of young people. “Women represent the future of humanity, period. I have budgets that include gender questions and issues. We must reduce the inequality of the distribution of power and wealth.”

“We must now say, ‘beside every great man is a great woman …’”

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

April 11, 2013

By JAY REEVES

Associated Press

 

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The lone survivor of a 1963 Alabama church bombing that killed four black girls said Wednesday she wants millions in compensation for her injuries and won't accept a top congressional award proposed to honor the victims.

Sarah Collins Rudolph, in an interview with The Associated Press, said she feels forgotten 50 years after the blast shocked the nation. Rudolph lost an eye in the Sept. 16, 1963 bombing at Birmingham's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and says she never got restitution.

“We haven’t received anything, and I lost an eye,” said Rudolph, who lives north of Birmingham. “They just want to throw a medal at us.”

Congress is considering whether to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the four girls who died: 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, and 11-year-old Denise McNair. Addie Mae was the sister of Rudolph, who was 12 at the time and was in a downstairs washroom with the four girls when the blast occurred. At least two dozen others were injured.

The brother of Cynthia Wesley said he isn’t interested in the award either and wants compensation, partly because history didn’t even record his sister's name correctly.

U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell, a Demo­crat, and Spencer Bachus, a Repub­lican, announced a bipartisan effort in January to award the medal to the church bombing victims. The medal represents the highest civilian honor that Congress can bestow. Recipients have ranged from George Washington to civil rights figure Rosa Parks, Pope John Paul II and “Peanuts” creator Charles M. Schulz.

The church bombing shocked the nation and was a galvanizing moment in the civil rights movement.

The five girls were preparing for Sunday services in the washroom near the wall where the bomb was planted outside.

It was more than a decade before any successful prosecutions were brought in the case.

Juries convicted three Ku Klux Klansmen in the bombing years later, and one suspected accomplice died without ever having been charged; one of the four is still in prison and the others are dead.

But Rudolph said she still hasn’t gotten justice like other crime victims who receive restitution payments.

“My sister was killed and I lost my eye. Why should I be any different?” said Rudolph, who says she still suffers from painful memories, physical scars and posttraumatic stress syndrome.

Rudolph said she wants compensation “in the millions” for her injuries and the death of Addie Mae, but she hasn’t settled on an exact amount.

Fate Morris said he also will refuse the medal and wants compensation like Rudolph for the death of his sister, typically referred to as Cynthia Wesley. Morris said her real name was Cynthia Morris, and no medal will replace the mistake.

“It’s a smoke screen to shut us up and make us go away so we’ll never be heard from again,” Morris told AP.

Morris said his sister was staying with a family named “Wesley” at the time of the bombing to get into a good school, but she still came back to the Morris household on weekends. Authorities mistakenly recorded her last name as “Wesley” and never fixed the error, he said, until the family sought an amended death certificate decades later.

Morris said he vividly recalls hearing the blast that morning and running to the church with friends to help dig through the rubble. He remembers people calling out about finding bodies amid broken bricks but said he left in fear before his sister’s remains were found.

Morris, sobbing during an interview, said a friend told him moments later that Cynthia’s decapitated remains had been found. He said he’s never shaken the pain.

“I left her buried in a pile of bricks. That’s all I could think of,” he said through tears.

Stephanie Engle, an activist who is publicizing the families’ push for compensation, said victims of the bombing deserve reparation just like Japanese Americans who received payments through a $1.6 billion program decades after being held in internment camps during World War II.

Birmingham’s entire Jim Crow structure of racial segregation created a climate of fear and hate that resulted in the girls’ deaths, she said. Engle said “medals, statues, and ‘pomp-and-circumstance ceremonies’ are not a substitution for justice, moral, and historical accountability.”

Press aides to Sewell and Bachus did not return messages seeking comment on the status of the legislation for the medals.

The Alabama Crime Victims’ Compensation Commission helps crime victims and families with expenses stemming from a crime, but Executive Director Cassie Jones said state law does not allow it to address crimes that occurred before the agency was created in 1984. She said it doesn’t matter if the conviction occurred after 1984, as happened in this case. “We are not able to compensate anyone where there was a crime before it became an agency,” she said.

She said the Justice Department has a program to assist crime victims, but she doesn’t know how far back it can go.

Robert Sedler, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit who has litigated major civil rights cases, said Congress has the power to approve compensation to victims such as Rudolph.

“These people are victims of a long and tragic history of racial discrimination in the southern states and Congress on behalf of the people can provide compensation for the victims,” he said.

As for the church bombing victims and families, Sedler said their argument is strengthened by the fact that Alabama authorities were nor protecting the rights of blacks at the time. He noted that Birmingham’s public safety commissioner then was the notoriously racist Bull Connor.

“Violence was encouraged,” he said. “Local law enforcement officials did not enforce the law to protect minority rights... The people who blew up the church, they believed that they could do it with impunity.”

The viciousness of the bombing drew national attention to Birming­ham, where authorities used fire hoses and police dogs to turn back black marchers months earlier the same year. Congress passed the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act within a year of the bombing, which came to symbolize the depth of racial hatred in the South.

Rudolph’s comments come a week after Alabama lawmakers address another major episode in civil rights history. Legislators voted to allow posthumous pardons for the “Scottsboro Boys,” nine black teens who were wrongly convicted of raping two white women more than 80 years ago.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

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