Governor Robert Bentley on Friday held a ceremonial signing for Senate Bill 97, a measure that establishes a framework for posthumous pardons in the case of the Scottsboro Boys. Governor Bentley also signed House Joint Resolution 20, which formally exonerates the Scottsboro Boys.
"We cannot take back what happened. But we can make it right moving forward. That's why I'm signing this legislation," Governor Bentley said. "It's important to clear the names of the Scottsboro Boys. This is the result of a bipartisan, cooperative effort, and I appreciate everyone who worked together to make this legislation a reality."
House Speaker Mike Hubbard added, "The Legislature's unanimous passage of this important legislation and Governor Bentley's signature show that today's Alabama is far removed from the one that caused such pain for so many so long ago."
Friday's signing ceremony took place at the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center.
"This is a great step in correcting an injustice that occurred more than 80 years ago," said Shelia Washington, the founder and director of the museum. "The case of the Scottsboro Boys has been widely studied for years, and the experts conclude that the Scottsboro Boys were wrongly accused and wrongly convicted. That's why the pardons and exonerations are so important. Thank you to Governor Bentley and all the legislators who worked with us on accomplishing our goal."
The pardoning legislation was sponsored by Senator Arthur Orr and Representative Laura Hall.
"We can't go back in time and change this unfortunate event in Alabama's history, but this legislation is a significant step toward recognizing and correcting this gross injustice," Senator Arthur Orr said. "It is never too late to right a wrong."
"While we cannot erase the dark days when the Scottsboro Boys incident occurred, what we have done is acknowledge our mistake," Representative Laura Hall said. "Hopefully, our great State of Alabama can be Alabama the Beautiful, where justice is dispensed equally and fairly without regard to race, sex, social class or religious belief."
The case began in 1931, when nine young black men, commonly known as the Scottsboro Boys, were accused of raping two white women. All of the men, except for 12-year-old Roy Wright, were convicted and sentenced to death. During later retrials, one of the accusers admitted to fabricating the rape allegations. Ultimately, charges were dropped against some of the Scottsboro Boys while others were still convicted in retrials. Researchers, scholars and others have thoroughly reviewed the case and found that the Scottsboro Boys were, indeed, wrongfully accused and convicted. The pardoning and exoneration measures approved by the Alabama Legislature and signed by Governor Bentley are important steps in clearing the names of the Scottsboro Boys and correcting the injustices of the past.
Representative John Robinson sponsored the House Joint Resolution providing the exonerations.
"I'm so proud the exoneration resolution has passed and that the Legislature and Governor have come together to address this issue," Representative Robinson said. "Time does not heal everything. That's why it's so important to exonerate the Scottsboro Boys."