Dr. E. R. Bridges, a Scottsboro physician since 1914, was the prosecution witness who turned out be, in the minds of many, the best witness for the defense. The testimony of Bridges in the Scottsboro trials of 1931 through 1933 cast grave doubt on the story of Victoria Price that she had been beaten and gang raped by six blacks on March 25, 1931 aboard a Southern Railroad freight train.
Bridges and his assistant, Dr. John Lynch, examined Price and Bates less than two hours after the alleged rapes occurred. While the two doctors found semen in the vaginas of both women (much more in the case of Bates than Price), they found little evidence to support their contention that they had been the victims of a violent assault.
The prosecution used the testimony of Bridges in the first Scottsboro trials to prove that Bates and Price had intercourse in the two days before they were examined-- presumably, they hoped the jury would surmise, about two hours before their examination. A "great amount" of semen was found in Bates, Bridges said, but in the case of Price there was barely enough sperm to produce a smear.
In reading the record of the first trial, it was the testimony of Bridges that convinced Samuel Liebowitz that the Scottsboro Boys were innocent of rape and that he should take their cases. When time came to cross-examine Bridges in the 1933 trial before Judge Horton, Liebowitz made the most of the opportunity. Bridges testified in cross-examination that the sperm he found in Bates and Price was non-motile, even though sperm generally remains motile for at least twelve hours after intercourse. Bridges also described the girls as calm and composed, in contradiction to Price's story that she was crying and in shock. Bridges reported finding none of the lacerations or blood one would expect to find after a violent gang rape, and no head injuries that would support Price's contention that she was hit there by a gun butt. Finally, Bridges testified that one of the accused boys, Willie Roberson, was suffering from severe venereal disease and "would not have had any inclination to commit [rape]."
Judge Horton relied primarily on the medical testimony of Bridges in his controversial decision setting aside the jury's guilty verdict in the Patterson trial of April, 1933. Horton praised Bridges as fair, intelligent, honest, and unevasive.
The testimony of Bridges was also crucial to the defense case in later 1933 trials before Judge Callahan. By January 1936, Bridges was gravely ill and his trial was read into the record at Patterson's fourth trial. He died soon thereafter.
Judge Horton on the Medical Evidence
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