Bobby Frank Cherry
A year ago last April, I explored the curious past of an East Texas man named Bobby Frank Cherry in a story titled “The Sins of the Father.” Though the FBI had long suspected that Cherry had played a role in the infamous 1963 bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, that left four black girls dead, he was never charged. Just one month after the issue came out, however, Cherry and fellow Klansman Thomas Blanton were indicted for murder on the basis of new evidence. But if the victims’ families hoped that justice might at last be served, they were sorely disappointed. This spring, one week before Cherry was to stand trial in Birmingham, the presiding judge indefinitely delayed his case after a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation concluded that the 72-year-old had vascular dementia and might not be able to assist in his defense. (Blanton was convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence.) The ruling means that Cherry, who will most likely remain in Birmingham with his family, will never see the inside of a prison cell, though both federal and local authorities are convinced he has blood on his hands.