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Hearing to gauge ex-Klansman’s fitness for trial

SHARE Hearing to gauge ex-Klansman’s fitness for trial

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Two evaluations found ex-Ku Klux Klansman Bobby Frank Cherry incompetent to stand trial for the deaths of four black girls in a 1963 church bombing. A third determined he was fit to face charges he helped plant the deadly device.

The conflicting reports were to be the subject of a hearing before Circuit Judge James Garrett, who will try to resolve questions over Cherry's mental competency. The hearing was originally set to begin Monday, but the judge put it off until the afternoon, saying he needed to dispose of other cases on his docket.

"I'm assuming that all the experts who did evaluations will testify," prosecutor Doug Jones said.

Eleven-year-old Denise McNair and 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley were killed in the Sept. 15, 1963, blast at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

Cherry and ex-Klansman Thomas Blanton Jr. were indicted last year on charges they helped plant the bomb outside the church, a gathering place for civil rights activists during weeks of demonstrations against Birmingham's segregation laws of the time.

Blanton was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on May 1.

Originally set to go on trial with Blanton, Cherry was granted a postponement until questions about his competency could be resolved.