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One year ago: Alice McGrath

November 27, 2010 |  6:00 am

Alice McGrath played a key role in the defense of young Mexican Americans who were wrongly convicted in the 1942 Sleepy Lagoon trial.

McGrath initially wrote summaries of the trial for attorney George Shibley, who was defending 22 Mexican Americans charged with killing a Mexican farmworker.

The defendants were called "zoot suit gangsters" by the press after the long coats and pegged pants that were popular among Mexican Americans.

McGrath became the executive director of the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee, which worked for an appeal after they were convicted, including 12 for murder.

Her story became part of "Zoot Suit," the play by Luis Valdez that became a movie in 1981. Valdez called her "one of the heroines of the 20th century."

The convictions were overturned in 1944.

McGrath died a year ago at age 92. Her news obituary appeared in The Times on Nov. 29, 2009.

--Keith Thursby

Photo: Alice McGrath. Credit: Los Angeles Times