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Church Bomb Case Stays Put

A judge rejected a request Monday to move out of Birmingham the trial of two former Ku Klux Klansmen charged in a civil rights-era church bombing that killed four black girls.

However, Circuit Judge James Garrett left the door open for a change of venue if an impartial jury cannot be found. Jury selection is set for April 16.

Lawyers for Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry had asked to move the trial because of the publicity and emotions surrounding the case. The 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was one of the most shocking crimes of the civil rights era.

The lawyers cited a November telephone poll showing that 42 percent of Jefferson County residents believe Blanton and Cherry are guilty or probably guilty. Less than 4 percent said the two are probably innocent.

Prosecutor Doug Jones said his research shows as many as 200,000 people in the county do not have a fixed opinion about the case.

The judge is also weighing whether to block years of secret tape recordings of Blanton, whose kitchen was bugged by investigators.

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