3. Who are the players in this court
case? Who too the matter to court?
Charlie Weems, Ozie Powell, Clarence Norris,
Olen Montgomery, Willie Roberson,
Haywood Patterson, Andrew (Andy) Wright,
Leroy (Roy) Wright and Eugene Williams –
also known as the Scottsboro Boys
Represented by ACLU Attorney Walter
State of Alabama
Nine, young, African American
men were accused of raping
two white women while
traveling on a freight train
The young men stood trial in
Scottsboro, AL and were
convicted of the rape and all
but one were sentenced to
death for the crime
ACLU Attorney Walter Pollack
appealed their case to the US
Supreme Court based on the
Defendants were denied
adequate legal counsel.
March 25, 1931: Defendants were accused of raping two white women on a freight train
March 30, 1931: Grand jury indicts all 9 “Scottsboro boys”
April 6-7, 1931: Before Judge A. E. Hawkins, Clarence Norris and Charlie Weems are tried,
convicted, and sentenced to death.
April 7-8, 1931: Haywood Patterson is tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.
April 8-9, 1931: Olen Montgomery, Ozie Powell, Willie Roberson, Eugene Williams, and
Andy Wright are tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.
April 9, 1931: The case against Roy Wright, aged 13, ends in a hung jury when 11 jurors
seek a death sentence, and one votes for life imprisonment.
June 22, 1931: The executions of the defendants are stayed pending appeal to the
Alabama Supreme Court.
March 24, 1932: The Alabama Supreme Court, voting 6-1, upholds the convictions of
seven of the defendants, granting Eugene Williams a new trial because he was a juvenile
at the time of his conviction.
May 27, 1932: The United States Supreme Court agrees to hear the case.
November 7, 1932: In Powell v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the
defendants were denied the right to counsel, which violated their right to due process under
the Fourteenth Amendment. The cases are remanded to the lower court.
*The following link contains a full timeline of the events of the “Scottsboro boys”
The alleged rape took place on a Southern Railroad freight train.
The train was stopped in Paint Rock, Alabama by an angry posse.
Nine young African American young men were arrested for assault.
Rape charges were later added.
The case was first heard and convictions handed down to all nine
young men in Scottsboro, Alabama. Upon waiting for their trials,
eight of the nine defendants stayed in Kilby Prison.
The case was appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court. The
Alabama Supreme Court affirmed seven of the eight convictions,
and granted thirteen-year-old Eugene Williams a new trial because
he was a juvenile. The case was returned to the lower court and the
judge allowed a change of venue, moving the retrials to
In the height of the depression and tense racial times in the south, a group of young
black men were involved in an altercation between some white men while traveling on
a freight train. All but one of the white men were thrown from the train. Two white
women remained on the train and accused the black men of rape. One of which later
recanted her accusations.
The black men were arrested and were denied consultation with legal representation
until immediately before the trial. The jury’s in all of the trials consisted of only white
Throughout the proceedings, none of the “Scottsboro” boys was allowed to contact
their relatives, who lived out of State. On the day of the trial, an out-of-town attorney
appeared for the defendants but announced that he could not formally represent
them. The trial judge called on all the local lawyers present to assume responsibility
for defending the nine young men, but only one agreed. The two lawyers had no
opportunity to investigate the case or consult with their “clients.” All nine youths were
found guilty by four separate juries, despite testimony from doctors who said they
found no evidence of rape upon examining the women. Eight of the nine men
received the death penalty. The convictions were appealed through the State courts
of Alabama, and failing there, went to the Supreme Court.
The case was first heard in Scottsboro, Alabama in three rushed trials,
where the defendants received poor legal representation. All but the
thirteen-year-old Roy Wright were convicted of rape and sentenced to
death, the common sentence in Alabama at the time for black men
convicted of raping white women. But with help from the
American Communist Party, the case was appealed. The
Alabama Supreme Court affirmed seven of the eight convictions, and
granted thirteen-year-old Eugene Williams a new trial because he was a
juvenile. Chief Justice John C. Anderson dissented however, ruling that the
defendants had been denied an impartial jury, fair trial, fair sentencing, and
The case was returned to the lower court and the judge allowed a change of
venue, moving the retrials to Decatur, Alabama. Judge Horton was
appointed. During the retrials, one of the alleged victims admitted fabricating
the rape story and asserted that none of the Scottsboro Boys touched either
of the white women. The jury found the defendants guilty, but the judge set
aside the verdict and granted a new trial. After a new series of trials, the
verdict was the same: guilty. The cases were ultimately tried three times.
For the third time a jury—now with one black member—returned a third
guilty verdict. Charges were finally dropped for four of the nine defendants.
Sentences for the rest ranged from 75 years to death.
9. Outcome and Opinions
It is my opinion that these young men were
wrongly accused and wrongly convicted for a
crime they did not commit. They were poor,
illiterate, and a minority. They did not receive fair
trails nor adequate legal representation. Even
when one of the witness recanted her
accusations of rape, the courts still convicted
them of a crime they did not commit.
The following links were used in research
for this project: