Lawyers Say Late Rev. James Bevel’s Conviction Should Be Overturned

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An advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. faced an incest conviction at the time of his death. Today, three years later, the conviction still stands and his lawyer says it should be thrown out.

Attorney Bonnie Hoffman told the Virginia Supreme Court on Sept. 12 that her late client, Rev. James Bevel, appealed his 2008 conviction and died while it was still pending, the Associated Press reported.

Hoffman is seeking abatement, which is based on a theory that convictions are not final until the appeals process has been concluded.

But Senior Assistant Attorney General Virginia Theisen told court justices that convictions are presumed to be valid and Bevel's posthumous relief should be denied.

“The presumption of innocence that goes with a criminal defendant is gone once that person is convicted,” Theisen said, according to the AP.

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A final ruling is expected to occur in early November.

A Loudoun County, Va. judge convicted Bevel in April 2008 of having sex with his then-teenage daughter in the early 1990s. The 72-year-old received 15 years in prison and served a few months before dying of pancreatic cancer that following December.

Bevel is favorably known as the leader of the 1963 Children's Crusade in Birmingham, Ala., where he recruited Black children to join in civil rights protests. He also led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Civil rights historian David J. Garrow told the Washington Post back in 2008 that Bevel was King's “most influential aide,” and had a strong influence on both the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 and King's outspokenness of the Vietnam War.

Decades later, he made headlines again after helping Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan create the 1995 Million Man March.