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Archive for Thursday, May 16, 2002

Jury hears tapes of defendant discussing 1963 church bombing

May 16, 2002

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— A former Ku Klux Klansman on trial for murder in a 1963 church bombing that killed four black girls discussed making the explosive device, according to testimony and secretly recorded FBI tapes jurors heard Wednesday.

The 71-year-old defendant, Bobby Frank Cherry, referred to himself as part of a group that made the bomb that shattered the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, FBI informant and former Klansman Mitchell Burns testified.

On tapes secretly made by Burns decades ago, Cherry also could be heard talking with another suspect and the informant about bomb-making methods and the actual explosion.

Cherry, a retired truck driver, is accused of being part of a group of Klansmen who planted a bomb outside the church, a rallying place for civil rights protesters in the early 1960s. Cherry is the final surviving suspect and prosecutors said his trial would be the last in the case.

Burns testified he met Cherry through former Klansman Thomas Blanton Jr., convicted in the bombing last year.

Blanton's voice was heard on virtually all the tapes, made with a reel-to-reel tape recorder hidden in the trunk of Burns' car.

During one conversation, Burns said, Cherry discussed taking an FBI lie detector about the bombing.

"He stated to us he lied all the way through to the FBI," said Burns, now 74.

Another time, Burns said, Cherry indicated that agents didn't know the bomb was made at Cherry's house.

"They think we made the bomb somewhere else," Burns quoted Cherry as saying.

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