Friday, March 27, 2009

March 27 SF8 Hearing: Prosecutors Still Stalling

In a San Francisco courtroom with two to three times more security officers than 'normal,' members of the San Francisco 8 and their attorneys continued to press for release of federal wiretap surveillance of the Black Panther Party offices. More written arguments are now to be filed by mid April with oral arguments scheduled for Friday, April 24 at 9:00 a.m. The Preliminary Hearing is still scheduled to start June 8, 2009 and conclude by September 3, with court four days a week straight through. The Preliminary Hearing will determine whether there are grounds to bring the case to trial.

Prosecutors are reluctant to make these documents public presumably because they would tie the FBI's COINTELPRO program to this prosecution. COINTELPRO illegally targeted the Black Panther Party, its members and associates in precisely the time period covered by the prosecution's conspiracy allegations (1968-1973).

The increased courtroom security included the handcuffing and shackling of Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim. This issue had been argued and resolved twice before, resulting in a court ordered agreement with the San Francisco County Sheriff to allow the two jailed defendants full use of their hands in court and the dignity of not being fully restrained. Their attorneys refused to move forward unless directly ordered by the court, and eventually the defendants were freed of handcuffs for this pro forma hearing. This issue is likely to arise again before the next court hearing.

Next hearing April 24 at 9:00 a.m.

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