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.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Update from Hearing of March 6: Nothing New

At a brief hearing on March 6 the key matter of discovery was held over (postponed). 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.

In the matter of discovery, there is still no resolution to defense demands for complete discovery – not that anything new has been produced by the prosecution after over 37 years. Now that we have passed the 2-year anniversary of the "new" charges (charges that were dismissed in the 1970s by San Francisco prosecutors), the prosecutors are still reluctant to turn over "non-discoverable" evidence, information about FBI wiretaps, contact information for potential key witnesses, forensic tests about weapons (some weapons were destroyed or sold by New Orleans police), and the names of agents and examiners whose fingerprint analysis exonerates all the men charged in the SF 8 case. [Note: results of the weapons tests were finally released in January and they show no match between the alleged weapon and the scene. See court updated from January 23 below.]

To listen to the prosecution explain it, evidence is not being withheld with intent. Yet some of these very requests for information (discovery) were raised in court in 2007 and have still not been met.

Despite understandable objections by both Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim over delays, the preliminary hearing in the San Francisco 8 case has now been set for June 8 to September 3, 2009. Both Herman and Jalil are essentially locked down in the SF County Jail, and continue to have their rights to parole hearings in New York state denied.

February Events Supported the SF8

Black History Month Celebrated by SF Labor Council

Racism, Repression and Rebellion: The Lessons of Labor Defense was held February 14 at the ILWU Local 10 Hall in support of the SF8, Mumia, Troy Davis, and Oscar Grant.

The ILWU was born out of the militant 1934 Big Strike in which police killed two strikers in San Francisco, shooting them in the back. Still today police are banned from membership in Local 10. The union has a legacy of defending those under attack by the government, in particular reds and blacks, from Harry Bridges to Paul Robeson to Angela Davis to Mumia Abu-Jamal and Troy Davis. For Black History Month Local 10 organized this rally to teach the lessons of the need for unity of action to defend against government repression and racist profiling. These lessons are never more necessary than today as evidenced by the brutal murder by BART police of Oscar Grant.

Speakers included Richard Brown of the SF8, Angela Davis, Martina Correia (sister of Troy Davis on death row in Georgia), Rev. Cecil Williams, Robert R. Bryan (attorney for Mumia Abu-Jamal), Gerald Smith (Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal), Pierre LaBossiere (Haiti Action Committee), and JR (Prisoners of Conscience Ctte). Entertainment was provided by Jack Hirschman, S.F. Poet Laureate; Tayo Aluko, Nigerian Actor portraying Paul Robeson; Upsurge Jazz/Poetry Music and others.

COINTELPRO Repression Opposed in Chicago Programs

Click to enlarge graphic below.Campaign for Herman Bell, Jalil Muntaqim to Attend Parole Hearings

Jalil Muntaqim and Herman Bell (of the San Francisco 8) are two of many who sacrificed so much during the Civil Rights and Black Liberation Movements. Both have been held captive since the early 1970’s. Jalil and Herman are being denied of their right of parole hearings because neither the California nor New York Governor will act on their request to be transferred to NY in order to work on their parole hearings.

“Phone for Parole!” every Monday during Black History Month

SF8 supporters commemorated Black History Month in many ways, including calling and faxing for the immediate transporting of Jalil Muntaqim and Herman Bell for parole hearings. Please look at the letter below for more details on this injustice. Feel free to use it as a basis for your fax or phone call.

Free the SF 8!!

______________ SAMPLE LETTER _____________
Honorable David A. Paterson
Governor of the State of New York
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
FAX: 1-518-474-1513, 1-518-474-3767
david.paterson@chamber.state.ny.us
phone: 518-474-8390

February, 2009

Dear Governor Paterson:
I call upon you to immediately approve the already agreed upon transfer
of Herman Bell (DIN 79C0262) and Anthony Bottom (DIN 77A4283)
(aka Jalil Muntaqim), back to New York State custody to attend their
parole hearings.

The San Francisco County Jail does not have the proper facilities or capacity to hold people for an extended period of time, and two years in sub-standard living conditions, woefully limited visits and little to no access to proper medical care or activities has had devastating effects on Mr. Bell and Mr. Bottom and their families. Both of these men have been incarcerated for over 35 years and are model prisoners. Their return to New York State is essential in order for them to be present for crucial parole hearings. It is unfair and cruel to deny them this right.

Additionally, Mr. Bottom has submitted a fully documented application to you for clemency/commutation of his New York sentence. Please do not allow Mr. Bottom's custody in California to lessen the urgency of acting on his compelling case.

Please act now to end this injustice.

Sincerely,

(Print Name)
(Signature)
(Address)