Originally created 05/04/01

Justice at last



The road to justice was tortuously long, but the verdict came quickly for former Ku Klux Klansman Thomas E. Blanton Jr., who on Tuesday was found guilty in the bombing of a Birmingham, Ala. church in 1963. The bomb killed four little girls who were in a basement room preparing for Sunday services.

Blanton had been a suspect from the start, but the deaths of four black girls weren't enough to get the wheels of justice turning in Alabama during the early 1960s.

Justice Department records show that obstruction of justice went all the way to the top, with then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover preventing the Birmingham FBI office from investigating the case.

But in 1993, some FBI agents discovered thousands of documents that had been hidden for 30 years, and they sent them to Birmingham prosecutors for action.

The delay of this trial is a tragedy in the history of American justice, but the right verdict came at last, and the families of the girls can finally look ahead, knowing the judicial system finally did the right thing.

Blanton was one of four men who were, from the beginning, suspected in the bombing. One was tried and convicted. Another died and the third awaits a decision on whether he is competent to stand trial.

As far as the punishment goes, it's too bad Blanton got just four life sentences, rather than the death penalty, which he deserves.