Officials Apologize for 1944 Rape Case that Never Went to Court

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Henry County public officials are giving personal apologies for errors that may have been made by the court system in a nearly 70-year-old rape case.

This rape case dates back to 1944 in a time when racism was widespread in the south and many believe one particular rape victim in Henry County never saw justice.

In 1944 a 24-year-old African American woman was allegedly raped by seven white men at gunpoint.

Her brother was almost nine at the time.

"I remember standing on the porch crying that night because she was like a mother to me and I heard that gun and I just knew they were going to kill her,” says the victim’s brother Robert Corbitt.

The victim's case went to a grand jury twice and despite an Attorney General’s investigation, the all white male juries returned the case without an indictment both times.

"My hostility wasn't toward those men because they done what they was supposed to do. They admitted that they kidnapped her they admitted they raped her except for one,” says Corbitt, "But if you read the statements that the police made at that time they said that they didn't do it."

"I read all the statements that the police the sheriff and the witness made and boy what a mess they made out of that thing, the lies,” says Corbitt.
Public officials are now giving the victim and her family personal apologies for the events of that era.

"I open my heart up and say that I am deeply sorry for what happened," says AL Representative Dexter Grimsley.

"Anytime one of our residents whether past or present feels pain or feels victimized we certainly want to offer that apology," says Abbeville Mayor Ryan Blalock.

One thing everyone could agree on was that racial relations are very different today than they were in 1944.

"Oh it's very much different, as different as day and night. What happened to my sister back at that time and the way that those men got away with raping her it couldn't happen today," says Corbitt.

"We are better now at race relations than we have ever been. Why can't we celebrate that?" says Blalock.

The reported victim was not at Monday’s press conference and is now 91-years-old and it's believed that only one of the suspects is still alive today.

Mayor Blalock says an official city apology would have to come through a resolution from the city council.

Representative Dexter Grimsley says he's working on a resolution to get a state apology.

You can find more of the official comments in the video player.

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