Former president Donald Trump has again sparked backlash by citing a historic Supreme Court decision regarding the 1931 Scottsboro Boys cases to enhance his request for an April 2026 federal trial date.
Trump urged US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who scheduled the trial for March 2024, to push the trial date back to April of the following year. After invoking the infamous case, Chutkan explained why the comparisons were inappropriate and irrelevant because the Scottsboro Boys “were incapable of adequately making their own defense.”
“For any number of reasons, [Trump’s case] is profoundly different from Powell,” Chutkan said during Monday’s hearing. She added that the former commander-in-chief is “represented by a team of zealous, experienced attorneys and has the resources necessary to efficiently review the discovery and investigate” and that a sooner trial date would not ignite a “haste of the mob.”
On March 25, 1931, nine African American teenagers—Haywood Patterson, Olen Montgomery, Clarence Norris, Willie Roberson, Andy Wright, Ozzie Powell, Eugene Williams, Charley Weems and Roy Wright—were accused of raping two white women aboard a Southern Railroad freight train in northern Alabama. They were searching for work. While on the train, a young white man stepped on the hand of one of the Scottsboro Boys. A fight broke out and the young white men were fighting were forced to exit the train. In an attempt to evade justice, the boys, who were facing charges of vagrancy and illegal sexual activity, falsely accused the Scottsboro Boys of rape.
On April 9, 1931, eight of the nine young men were convicted and sentenced to death after being found guilty by an all-white jury. The trial lasted just one day. In Powell v. Alabama, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that nine Black teenagers had been denied due process when Alabama expedited the criminal trials days after their indictments.
“It was stunningly stupid. Because one, the comparison is ridiculous. But second, if you want to alienate a judge in the case, this was exactly what to do. A female judge, a Black judge, and to talk about that case and compare it to Trump’s case was absurd,” retired California Superior Court Judge LaDoris Hazzard Cordell told Kaitlan Collins on CNN’s “The Source.”
“And Judge Chutkan really took them up on it and said this case is entirely different. I think she was absolutely offended.”