Judge Sets Ex-Klansman's Trial Date

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A judge has set an April 29 trial date for former Ku Klux Klansman Bobby Frank Cherry in the 1963 church bombing that killed four black girls.

Circuit Judge James Garrett said Friday that picking a jury to hear the highly publicized murder trial could take a week, so testimony may not begin until May 6 or later.

Cherry, 71, is accused of helping other Klansmen plant a bomb that exploded outside the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on Sept. 15, 1963. Killed were Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson, all 14, and Denise McNair, 11.

Garrett earlier this month overruled an earlier decision and declared Cherry mentally competent for trial. The defense argued he was unfit because mental health experts diagnosed him with vascular dementia.

Defense attorneys Mickey Johnson and Rodger Bass said they would ask the judge to reconsider previous rulings in which he refused to dismiss the charges or move Cherry's trial outside Birmingham.

Johnson said publicity surrounding the competency issue and last year's conviction of another former Klansman in the case, Thomas Blanton Jr., would make it that much harder for Cherry to get a fair trial.

Cherry and Blanton were indicted 1 1/2 years ago on murder charges in the bombing. While Cherry's trial was delayed because of the competency questions, Blanton was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Former Klansman Robert ``Dynamite Bob'' Chambliss was convicted of murder in the bombing in 1977 and died in prison. The fourth suspect, Herman Cash, died in 1994 without being charged.

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