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Jurors deliberate in church bombing trial

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (CNN) -- Jurors began deliberations Tuesday in the trial of a man accused of plotting a 1963 church bombing that killed four girls.

The jury will consider whether Thomas Blanton Jr., 62, is guilty of murder in one of the most horrific crimes of the civil rights era. He could face life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors contend Blanton, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, worked with others to plot the bombing of the black church. His lawyers acknowledge he was a "loudmouth" and a "segregationist," but Blanton has long denied any involvement in the Sept. 15, 1963, bombing.


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The trial, which began last Tuesday, reopened old wounds in the city. The court heard from family members whose loved ones were killed when a dynamite blast ripped through the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on a Sunday morning, killing 11-year-old Denise McNair and 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson.

The church was a nerve center for civil rights advocates who took to the streets that year to protest Birmingham's segregation laws.

Judge James Garrett has ordered the jury sequestered during the trial.

Blanton is one of four men tied to the bombing, prosecutors say.

Fourteen years after the bombing, Robert Chambliss was convicted of murder in connection with the incident. He died in prison. Another suspect died before he was charged.

Bobby Frank Cherry, 71, might never face trial after a judge ruled this month that he is not mentally competent to assist his attorneys.

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