During a hearing that lasted no more than 80 seconds on Wednesday, former Ku Klux Klan member Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. was denied parole, according to AL.com.
Blanton, 86, faces four life sentences for the 1963 16th Street Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, that took the life of four little Black girls: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, all 14, and Denise McNair, 11.
Blanton is the last surviving convicted bomber. Robert Edward Chambliss and Bobby Frank Cherry, convicted in 1977, died in jail. Herman Frank Cash, another Klan member involved in executing the bombing, was never tried for his involvement.
This was an act of terrorism that jolted the nation at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, when Blacks fought for equality across the nation, but even more fiercely in the entanglement of the Jim Crow South.
Blanton, who was convicted and jailed in 2001, 38 years after he committed the heinous crime, will not be eligible again for parole until 2021. Alabama state law allows a parole review every 15 years.
Doug Jones, the lead prosecutor who convicted Blanton, offered fierce opposition to his release.
“Fact of the matter is, he bombed a house of God on Sunday morning and killed four children and needs to do the time for his crimes,” he said.
Family of the four girls also attended the hearing, disgusted that Blanton was allowed even the thought of freedom.
Dianne Robertson Braddock, Carole Robertson’s sister, said she understood state laws allowed Branton’s entitlement to parole, but still felt the hearing lacked consideration for the victims’ families.
“It is appalling. It is shocking. It is very sorrowful and it’s very upsetting to not only me and my family, but this nation,” she said.
Denise McNair’s younger sister Lisa gave an emotional testimony on behalf of her family. “This has been a legacy of pain in our family for our whole lives,” she said.
Sarah Collins Rudolph, Addie Mae’s sister who lost sight in her right eye because of the bombing, told the board that it took years to alleviate the hate she felt in her heart, but through her faith she was restored.
While Blanton has reached out to the victims’ surviving family members, he has never accepted responsibility or shown remorse for his involvement – quite possibly sealing a fate to spend his remaining days in an Alabama jail.
SOURCE: AL.com | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty