Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Failures at the FBI crime lab
Created 04/23/2012 - 13:55
by Linn Washington Jr.
One of the issues driving protesters participating in the April 24, 2012 Occupy The Justice Department demonstration is an issue that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder knows well – prosecutorial misconduct.
Holder knows this misconduct issue well because he has criticized it during congressional testimony, as recently as March 2012 when commenting on a special prosecutor’s report castigating the wrongdoing of federal prosecutors.
That wrongdoing, Holder acknowledged, unlawfully tainted the corruption investigation and 2008 trial of the late U.S. Senator Ted Stevens –convicted of corruption in his home state of Alaska.
Protesters, including fiery Philadelphia activist Pam Africa, want Holder to take action against the prosecutorial misconduct evident in scores of unjust convictions improperly imprisoning political prisoners across America, most of them jailed for two or more decades.
Those political prisoners – ignored domestically while exalted abroad –include Native American activist Leonard Peltier, Puerto Rican Nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera, the Cuban 5, author/activist Mumia Abu-Jamal and other former Black Panther Party members like the Omaha Two (Ed Poindexter and Mondo W. Langa).
Demands of the Occupy The Justice Department protesters include the immediate release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, freeing all political prisoners, ending the racist death penalty and ending solitary confinement and torture.
Individuals and incidents underlying those demands are within the purview of USAG Holder to investigate and/or to act immediately to resolve.
April 24th is the birthday of Mumia Abu-Jamal, perhaps the most recognized U.S. political prisoner worldwide.
Abu-Jamal, for example, was the subject of two demonstrations held recently outside the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany, one of which included extending a 2,200-foot banner around that embassy building.
Pam Africa is the head of International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal – the Philadelphia-based organization at the center of the international movement seeking Abu-Jamal’s release.
Africa is the dynamo who most Philadelphia police, prosecutors, politicians and many pastors love to hate because of her strident advocacy on behalf of imprisoned journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal and MOVE members sentenced for a fatal 1978 shootout.
The advocacy of Pam Africa on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal – helping construct support networks while confronting incessant opposition –contributed to the climate where U.S. federal courts late last year finally killed the death sentence Abu-Jamal received following his controversial 1982 conviction for killing a policeman.
Abu-Jamal is now fighting against a life-without-parole sentence.
That elimination of Abu-Jamal’s government-endorsed death chagrined powerful figures across Pennsylvania and around America who had shamefully bent-&-broken laws (deliberately sabotaging court proceedings) in their various efforts to execute Abu-Jamal, known as the Voice-of-the-Voiceless.
While winning freedom for Abu-Jamal and the MOVE 9 is a definitive focus of Pam Africa’s advocacy she is frequently found on ‘front-lines’nationwide fighting for ending mistreatment of people regardless of their color and creed.
“Pam Africa is in each and every struggle for social justice in Philadelphia, the U.S. and abroad. It’s not just Mumia,” said Latino activist/writer Berta Joubert-Ceci while chairing a recent program featuring former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney in West Philadelphia.
Dr. Claude Guillaumaud, a professor in France whose known Africa for 20-years, said she's “had time to appreciate her warm personality and total commitment to the cause of Mumia and the fight against racial discrimination and the barbarian death penalty.”
Temple University African-American history professor Dr. Tony Monteiro first met Pam Africa during an ugly June 1979 incident in South Philadelphia where local police beat Africa. Philadelphia police pummeled Africa with nightsticks with one stick-strike knocking out some of her teeth.
The scholar in Dr. Monteiro sees Pam Africa as a unique figure whose contributions locally, nationally and internationally merit both examination and recognition.
“She’s made history but she didn’t set out to make history. She started initially just to do the right thing,” Monteiro said during a recent interview.
“I see her as one of the most significant rights leaders in the past forty-years. Where other black leaders have sought acceptance from ‘the system’ she never left the battlefield. She never retreated. She was never broken.”
Monteiro is a force behind two recent events honoring Pam Africa’s accomplishments. He has initiated a process for what he envisions as a study of Africa’s life works.
Prosecutorial misconduct is a core element in the Abu-Jamal case albeit a festering injustice ignored by state and federal courts that have refused to grant legal relief to Abu-Jamal despite granting new trials to others citing evidence of prosecutorial misconduct far less grievous than that evident in the Abu-Jamal case.
One example of prosecutorial misconduct in the Abu-Jamal case occurred during his 1982 murder trial when the prosecutor perverted a comment Abu-Jamal made over a decade earlier when responding to a reporter’s question about the December 1969 murder of Chicago Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton.
The Chicago police assassination of Hampton, later linked to the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO outraged many at the time including leaders as diverse as the then head of the NAACP, Roy Wilkins and former U.S. United Nations Ambassador Arthur Goldberg.
Hampton’s assassination, later documented by congressional and other investigations, was a part of a police-FBI campaign to slay BPP members –28 BPP deaths between January 1968 and December 1969.
A teenaged BBP member Abu-Jamal told that reporter that Hampton’s murder proved that “power” comes from the barrel of a gun.
But the 1982 trial prosecutor shifted the context of Abu-Jamal’s comment from applying it to police killing Black Panthers to proclaiming Abu-Jamal’s intent to kill police – one of many factual mischaracterizations that millions worldwide constantly cite when charging Abu-Jamal received an unfair trial.
That improper perversion of Abu-Jamal’s comment helped sway jurors to send the award-winning journalist with no criminal record to death row. That prosecutor had improperly excluded blacks from Abu-Jamal’s trial jury.
Not only was the prosecutor twisting Abu-Jamal’s comment an improper tactic it violated associational rights granted under the First Amendment.
The U.S. Supreme Court gave new hearings in the early 1990s to two convicted murderers – a white racist prisoner gang member in Delaware and a white devil worshipper in Nevada – while denying comparable relief to former BPP member Abu-Jamal three times.
USAG Eric Holder, shortly after taking office in January 2009, went to court successfully requesting dismissal of Sen. Stevens’ conviction after finding that federal prosecutor withheld evidence of innocence from Stevens’ defense team plus tampered with witnesses and documents.
The recent release of the special prosecutor’s report in the Stevens case confirmed that prosecutorial misconduct – wrongdoing also abundant in the case of Abu-Jamal and other U.S. political prisoners.
The Occupy The Justice Department demonstrators are raising the issue of Holder’s credibility and the ethical integrity of the Obama Administration in acting to dismiss the wrongful conviction of ex-Senator Stevens while ignoring the continued imprisonment of U.S. political prisoners that involves misconduct by police and prosecutors.
On December 9, 2011 – one day before the U.N. annual Human Rights Day –Noble Peace Prize winning anti-apartheid activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu asked America to “rise to the challenge of reconciliation, human rights and justice” in calling for the “immediate release” of Abu-Jamal.
Monday, April 23, 2012
Sunday, April 22, 2012
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Friday, April 20, 2012
FBI Refuses to Open Cold Cases on Pine Ridge Reservation
US Attorney Johnson to Visit
by Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents
April 20, 2012
MINNEAPOLIS – In a letter dated March 16, Tom Poor Bear, vice president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and James Toby Big Boy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, wrote a letter to US Attorney Brenan Johnson of the District of South Dakota asking him to "demand the FBI and BIA Division of Law Enforcement to reopen and (re)investigate the unsolved and largely uninvestigated murders" that occurred on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Many of these murders date back to the 1970s. Soon after the conclusion of the 71-day siege of Wounded Knee, people began to disappear and never seen again. Many were discovered murdered. Low estimates of those murdered number in around 60; other maintain there were hundreds of Indians murdered.
Many of the individuals murdered were members or supporters of the American Indian Movement.
In a telephone conversation on Thursday with Kyle Levon, a spokesperson for the Minneapolis FBI Division, the Native News Network has learned that office has yet to see the letter from the Oglala Sioux officials and there will not be an investigation of the cold case murders that date back the 1970s and others that have occurred in recent years.
“Absent of new information, the FBI will not be opening any of the cases involving homicides cited in the 2000 FBI report,” stated Levon. "If new information or evidence surfaces, which is pertinent to the FBI, we will investigate it.”
The FBI report alluded to by Levon was released in May, 2000. The summary of the report reads in part:
In December 1999, the South Dakota Advisory Committee of the United States Commission on Civil Rights (Commission) held a community forum in Rapid City, South Dakota to discuss the criminal justice system and how it impacts Native Americans. These allegations were proffered during the hearings and the Commission was sufficiently impressed by them to incorporate the allegation in its findings. (See Native Americans in South Dakota: An Erosion of Confidence in the Justice System, March 2000; p.38)
Shortly after the forum, the FBI received a list of 57 names with allegations that their deaths had not been investigated. This list came from a number of media outlets and for the first time, provided the FBI with specific information to address. We reviewed our records of these deaths and found that most had been solved either through conviction or finding that the death had not been a murder according to the law.
This past Monday, the Oglala Sioux Tribe received a response from US Attorney Johnson, who indicated he would arrange a meeting with tribal officials in mid-May to determine what, if anything, could result in the reopening the investigation.
“There are more than the 57 some murders usually mentioned,” said Big Boy in a telephone call conversation with the Native News Network late Thursday night. “People have been missing for twenty-some years. I got a call just today from a tribal member who is calling for justice.”
Tribal officials are asking family members or friends of the murder victims to contact James Toby Big Boy at 605.454.6740.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Film screening, “Warrior: The Life of Leonard Peltier” by Suzie Baer, 7:00 p.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation on Cliff Valley Way. (Take I-85 access road between N. Druid Hills and Clairmont. Enter from top steps of parking lot, down left hallway to last room on left, room 210.) $3 donation suggested, includes refreshments.
March from the King Center past the Carter Center, ending at Freedom Parkway and Moreland Avenue. Time: 1:00 p.m.
Dinner, cultural exchange and benefit concert. 7:30 p.m., at the Arts Exchange, 750 Kalb Street SE, Atlanta, GA 30312. Enjoy traditional dancing and a benefit concert by the Ex-Pand Band. $5 donation or more encouraged (free for unemployed).
For more information: Call 404-525-4360 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Friday, April 13, 2012
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
A group of American Indians led by Dorothy Ninham (Oneida) together with other supporters of clemency for Leonard Peltier left San Francisco in December, walking across the country to Washington DC with the goal of “advancing the economic social and cultural rights of all people,” as well as drawing attention to the case of this American Indian Movement leader and political prisoner since 1976. Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee (NC) and Indian communities in Alabama will join the marchers on April 19 in North Georgia, where they will camp before moving to the grounds of the Arts Exchange in East Atlanta on April 23. Among the people attending events are Peltier’s granddaughter and her children.
You are invited to meet them at these events:
· THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 7 pm – Film screening, “Warrior: The Life of Leonard Peltier” by Suzie Baer, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation on Cliff Valley Way. (Take I-85 access road between N. Druid Hills and Clairmont. Enter from top steps of parking lot, down left hallway to last room on left, room 210.) $3 donation suggested, includes refreshments.
· SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 1:00 pm – Assemble at the King Center (exact place to be confirmed early this week), march from the King Center past the Carter Center, ending at Freedom Parkway and Moreland Avenue.
· Interviews on WRFG (89.3 FM):
THURSDAY, APRIL 19, noon to 1 pm (Adam Shapiro, “Current Events”) and
MONDAY, APRIL 23, 6 pm to 7 pm (Heather Grey, “Just Peace)
· MONDAY, APRIL 23, 7:30 PM at the Arts Exchange, 750 Kalb St. SE, Atlanta 30312:
Dinner and cultural exchange including traditional dancing
Benefit concert by the Ex-Pand Band
$5 donation or more encouraged (free for unemployed)
For more information: 404-525-4360 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, April 9, 2012
DELRAY BEACH—The Easter Sunday brunch crowds were just beginning to thicken on Atlantic Avenue when two dozen human-rights activists, some beating drums and singing American Indian chants, marched through in single file.
Weaving their way through diners and shoppers, they passed out leaflets and held their banners high to remind the crowds that Leonard Peltier, an American Indian convicted of shooting two FBI agents at the Pine Ridge, S.D., Indian Reservation in 1975, is still in prison, serving two consecutive life terms for first-degree murder.
Many people have questioned Peltier's guilt since his 1977 sentencing. Some believe he was set up by the FBI and an unjust legal system. Books, documentaries, posters and works of art have been created to recount Peltier's story, and several celebrities and human rights groups have taken up his cause, saying he received an unfair trial.
"We want him freed," said Dorothy Ninham, an Oneida Indian from Wisconsin who has known Peltier since the early 1970s and still visits him in prison. "This is one of many injustices that have happened to red people and all races. We're not talking about one day and two agents. We're talking about all the years of oppression our peoples have suffered."
Ninham and a group of activists have been walking across the United States to share Peltier's plight. They began their trek at Alcatraz, the former prison in California, on Dec. 18, and plan to end it on May 20 inWashington, D.C.
Peltier's story is familiar to many who remember the American Indian civil rights protests of the 1970s. On June 26, 1975, two FBI agents, Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, came under heavy gunfire as they searched for a American Indian man who had been accused of stealing. Peltier, who had been a member of the activist American Indian Movement, admitted to firing at the agents in a 1999 memoir, but denied firing the fatal shots.
Peltier's most recent application for parole was denied in 2009. Peltier, 67, is in the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in North Florida, but Ninham said the marchers do not plan to stop there on their way to Washington.
The Delray Beach march attracted an assortment of former hippies who remember the American Indian protest movement and young activists who said they identify with human-rights causes and police brutality victims.
"The genocide of these great peoples is still going on," said Dona Knapp, of North Naples.
"At any moment, any of us could be Leonard Peltier," said Brenda McCabe, of Delray Beach. "Any of us could be targeted."
John Wulf, of Delray Beach, said the case altered his thinking about the American justice system.
"You have a legal system working to hold someone for whom the evidence is questionable," Wulf said. "It created doubt for me about our system and how it operates."
The group is staying at the Duncan Center, an Episcopal retreat in Delray Beach. After Sunday's march, they watched "Incident at Oglala," a 1992 documentary about the case, and had a potluck dinner and drumming celebration.
Lsolomon@tribune.com or 561-243-6536
Friday, April 6, 2012
April 5, 2012
Human-rights activists will march through Delray Beach (Florida) on Sunday to highlight the cause of prisoner Leonard Peltier, an American Indian convicted in connection with the 1975 deaths of two FBI agents at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
The walk, starting at 12:30 p.m. at the Crest Theatre at Old School Square, began in California in December and is scheduled to end in May in Washington, D.C. A sweat lodge, dinner and showing of "Incident at Oglala" will be open to the public. Call 561-502-7600.