Last Chance for Justice by T. K. Thorne
How Relentless Investigators Uncovered New Evidence Convicting the Birmingham Church Bombers

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Herren’s interview with one of the bombers, and the subsequent trials of Blanton and Cherry, are truly gripping. Thorne’s story is a stunning reminder of just how tough the fight for freedom—and justice—really is.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

Revealing the story of the reopening of the case of the Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing of 1963, this insider’s account divulges the ins and outs of the investigation led by detective Ben Herren of the Birmingham Police Department and special agent Bill Fleming of the FBI. For more than a year, they analyzed the original FBI files on the bombing and activities of the Ku Klux Klan, then began a search for new evidence. Their first interview—with Klansman Bobby Frank Cherry—broke open the case, but not in the way they expected. Herren and Fleming unearthed lost evidence and convinced long-silent witnesses to tell their stories. With tenacity, humor, dedication, and some luck, the pair encountered the worst and best in human nature on their journey to find justice, and perhaps closure, for the citizens of Birmingham.

On the morning of September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded outside the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls. Thirty-two years later, stymied by a code of silence and an imperfect and often racist legal system, only one person, Robert “Dynamite Bob” Chambliss, had been convicted in the murders, though a wider conspiracy was suspected. With many key witnesses and two suspects already dead, there seemed little hope of bringing anyone else to justice.

            But in 1995 the FBI and local law enforcement reopened the investigation in secret, led by detective Ben Herren of the Birmingham Police Department and special agent Bill Fleming of the FBI. For over a year, Herren and Fleming analyzed the original FBI files on the bombing and activities of the Ku Klux Klan, then began a search for new evidence. Their first interview—with Klansman Bobby Frank Cherry—broke open the case, but not in the way they expected.

            Told by a longtime officer of the Birmingham Police Department, Last Chance for Justice is the inside story of one of the most infamous crimes of the civil rights era. T. K. Thorne follows the ups and downs of the investigation, detailing how Herren and Fleming identified new witnesses and unearthed lost evidence. With tenacity, humor, dedication, and some luck, the pair encountered the worst and best in human nature on their journey to find justice, and perhaps closure, for the citizens of Birmingham.

 

About T. K. Thorne

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T. K. Thorne served as an officer in the patrol and detective bureaus of the Birmingham Police Department for 20 years, retiring as precinct captain in 1999. She is the author of Noah's Wife. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.
 
Published September 1, 2013 by Chicago Review Press. 292 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Last Chance for Justice
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Above average
on Jun 13 2013

Timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham bombing, this account, though ineptly written, does wrap up a sorry episode in the city’s history and may have considerable local appeal.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Jun 10 2013

Herren’s interview with one of the bombers, and the subsequent trials of Blanton and Cherry, are truly gripping. Thorne’s story is a stunning reminder of just how tough the fight for freedom—and justice—really is.

Read Full Review of Last Chance for Justice: How ... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

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