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A state appeals court Friday refused to vacate the murder conviction of ex-Klansman Bobby Frank Cherry in the deaths of four black girls in a 1963 church bombing in Birmingham.

An attorney for Cherry, who died at a prison hospital last month at the age of 74, had asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to vacate the conviction under an Alabama law that allows such court action if a defendant dies while a conviction is being appealed.

The appeals court rejected the motion, saying it had already ruled against Cherry's appeal and that the law vacating convictions with the death of a defendant does not apply.

Cherry died while his application for a rehearing by the court of criminal appeals was pending.

Cherry was convicted in May 2002 and sentenced to life in prison for the deadly bombing at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. He was one of three former Ku Klux Klan members convicted in the blast.