Free the San Francisco 8!

April 24, 2009 Hearing: wiretaps off limits

At the April 24 (2009) hearing, Judge Moscone denied defense requests to force the release of FBI wiretap surveillance of Black Panther phones in the San Francisco 8 case. In doing so, he accepted the affidavit of an FBI "taint team" which has not been seen by the defense and asserts that no FBI wiretaps include any surveillance of the eight. It was argued that it is hard to believe the FBI’s findings about their own surveillance and even more unbelievable that the illegalities of COINTELPRO (the FBI’s counter intelligence program) would not be relevant in this case. Nonetheless, the ruling makes these wiretaps “undiscoverable at this time,” according to the Judge's ruling.

The prosecution claims not to have any access to these wiretaps either. This assertion is equally incredible given that the FBI always worked with local and state police agencies in conducting its war against the Black Liberation movement. The prosecution also claims that it cannot order the release of FBI files – which is absurd given that the FBI was “involved since day one” according to defense arguments and is borne out by the fact that an early grand jury was called by the federal government in this case.

It was made clear in court today that the FBI made the Black Panther Party the number one target of the FBI at the time and that there is no doubt that this includes these men because of their relationship to the Party. The Judge responded by likening such requests to a defense fishing expedition.

Neither Herman Bell nor Jalil Muntaqim was handcuffed in the courtroom. Lynne Stewart, her husband, Ralph Poynter, and Ward Churchill showed their solidarity with the San Francisco 8 by joining numerous other community members for today’s hearing.

March 27, 2009 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. 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.

Update from Hearing of March 6, 2009: 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 update 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.

Update from hearing of January 23, 2009: "Big Surprise" – Shotgun Bought on Internet is No Match

In a brief court hearing on Friday, January 23, attorneys for the San Francisco 8 once again tried to pry discovery (potential evidence) from the prosecution.

California State Prosecutors revealed that federal wiretaps of the defendants were reviewed by a US Attorney’s “taint team” which deemed them non-discoverable (not to be made available to the defense) because they lack relevance. This was immediately challenged by defense attorneys who argued that the federal government cannot be expected to determine the relevance of their own surveillance given the history of COINTELPRO (the FBI’s counter intelligence program) which targeted the Black Panther Party and these very defendants for the last 40 years. In light of this history and the fact that this very prosecution was started by the federal government after 2000, several defense attorneys argued, you can’t say that the Federal Government and the FBI have no interest in this case, and those same agencies cannot determine the relevance or lack of relevance of these wiretaps.

John Philipsborn, who represents Hank Jones, made it very clear that there is substantial evidence of close FBI surveillance of several of these defendants along with many other people associated with the Black Panther Party. It is more than reasonable, he argued, that the defense team determine the relevance of the wiretaps, not just a federal “taint team.”

Judge Moscone agreed to review an affidavit from this “taint team” and rule on these wiretaps.

Chuck Bourdon, who represents Francisco Torres, once again argued that all fingerprint evidence be turned over by the prosecution. These requests were originally made at the beginning of these hearings and still have not been fully complied with.

Close to 200 pages of additional materials are being deemed “non-discoverable” by the California prosecutors on behalf of New York prosecutors. These documents date back to the 1970s and the New York 3 case – which was tried twice and resulted in the convictions of Herman Bell, Jalil Muntaqim and Nuh Washington (now deceased). The events connected to that New York case are being re-raised in one of the conspiracy counts against Herman Bell, Jalil Muntaqim and Francisco Torres. Not only is the prosecution raising more than 30-year old legal issues that have already been tried, but they are clearly trying to limit raising issues of COINTELPRO, the use of torture, and the government conspiracy to destroy the Black liberation movement.

Before the hearing ended, prosecutors revealed that the highly touted shotgun that was purchased through the Internet and sent to the FBI labs last October for testing as the “missing murder weapon” has now been found to NOT match any other weapons evidence in this case. That weapon, much like the highly touted DNA swabs taken in June of 2006 and only last year determined to not match any of the defendants, only served as the prosecutor’s “new evidence” argument to the media, and turns out to be yet another lie.

Update from SF 8 hearing of December 17, 2008

The most important decision from this court date is that the Preliminary Hearing will start June 8, 2009 and conclude by September 3. 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 are approaching 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 above.]

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.

Update from hearing of December 5, 2008

In a brief court hearing for the San Francisco 8, nothing was decided. Everything was carried over.

The purpose of this hearing was to schedule the start of the preliminary hearing to establish whether there is probable cause to bring the case to trial; Judge Philip Moscone had previously stated his intention to start that hearing in early January. However, the prosecutor, David Druliner of the California Attorney General's office, announced that his office was still preparing thousands more pages of discovery yet to be turned over to the defense, and suggested a mid-April start. He has already given the defense 150,000 pages.

Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim (aka Anthony Bottom) requested, through their lawyers Stuart Hanlon and Mark Goldrosen, that the judge impose a cut-off date for discovery and set the preliminary hearing date for January 5, 2009, as they are anxious to move the case forward and the continual delay by the prosecution is unreasonable by established legal standards.

Defense counsel raised the possibility of severing one or more of the defendants and proceeding to separate trials. When Judge Moscone asked whether severance would impact the case, Mr. Druliner responded that the case would then "fragment like a grenade through the court system," tying up his staff as well as court and jail staff. The judge acknowledged the logistical implications of severance, but noted that it might be necessary anyway. He also noted that if the case does proceed beyond the preliminary hearing, there would be an evidentiary hearing on the defense's motion to dismiss the charges. All of this before a possible actual trial.

Update from hearing of November 6, 2008

At the November 6 court hearing in the SF 8 case, there were two items of business:
1) setting a date for the preliminary hearing and 2) the continued shackling of
Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim. Resolution of both items was put off.

January will mark two years since the arrest of the San Francisco 8 and the Preliminary Hearing to determine whether or not there is a basis for a trial is yet to take place. Prosecution maneuvering regarding the tens of thousands of pages of discovery as well as scheduling conflicts of over a dozen attorneys continue to present a logistical quagmire.

As lawyers opened by presenting their respective schedules, filled with major trials in the next several months, Judge Moscone interrupted to state that he would not listen to scheduling problems and that he proposed starting the preliminary hearing on January 5 regardless of conflicts. He said he wanted to conclude this case "while I'm still here."

However, the prosecution acknowledged that just this week they had given the defense some three thousand pages of new discovery material and added that they have another two thousand or more pages to prepare before disclosing. The judge allowed as to how he had to give the defense time to read the alleged "evidence" against their clients.

Under pressure from the judge, the Attorney General's office agreed to deliver the remaining discovery materials to the defense by next week. In turn, the defense attorneys agreed to look it over quickly to determine how much time might be needed to fully study it.

December 3, 2007 Hearing

At the hearing in the case on December 3, 2007, Judge Moscone dealt with procedural issues only.

No basis to proceed, says defense

Moscone will hear arguments January 10, 2008 about several demurrers filed by the defense. Basically a demurrer says "even if what you charged is true it is insufficient to proceed." The motions were filed on the basis that the complaint bars prosecution because of:
     Unjustified delays in charging;
     That the "serious felony" enhancements were not law at the time
         of the alleged crime;
     That the complaint is so vague and insufficient that the defendants
         cannot defend against the allegations;
     That the prior adjudication in 1975 bars re-prosecution because of
         double jeopardy and/or collateral estoppel;
     And that the conduct charged in the conspiracy count (acts between 1968
         and 1973) were the subject of other adjudications and subject to
         pleas of double jeopardy and collateral estoppel.

Collateral estoppel prevents a party to a lawsuit from raising a fact or issue which was already decided against them in another lawsuit.

Preliminary hearing for a unique case

Judge Moscone at this time set the beginning of the preliminary hearing for April 2008; due to prosecutorial delays this has been put off until September 8, 2008 and may be put off again. The judge made it clear that he considers this a unique case and if the prosecution can't make a sufficient showing with evidence at the preliminary hearing, that he is obligated to dismiss the case.

According to Attorney Chuck Bourdon "then the court won't even reach the motion to dismiss for pre-charging delay. Even if the court finds sufficient evidence to proceed at that time, the judge will then consider whether there was sufficient justification to bring the case after so many years."

What new evidence?

The defense team asked Judge Moscone to order the prosecution to meet a set compliance deadline by which they would either provide missing evidence or make clear what evidence is missing or has been destroyed. Defense attorneys were arguing that after 35 years, there either is no new evidence, or if there is, they have a right to see it.

Chuck Bourdon, who represents Francisco Torres, pointed out that latent fingerprint evidence attributed to Cisco by the prosecution, were tested in 1971 by the FBI and SF Police with negative results, were tested again in 1972 by the SF Police with negative results and again in 1975 by the FBI labs, again with no match to any of the defendants. Another 2005 print analysis request has yet to be replied to. "There are no substantiating reports in any of these results which implicate anyone in the case, yet significant information that would allow the examination of results (which would benefit the defense) have been made available."

Further arguing that there is no justification for these decades of delay, Bourdon also cited a 1977 FBI memorandum referencing comments by Frank McCoy (one of the SF police investigators present in New Orleans during the torture of John Bowman, Harold Taylor, and Ruben Scott) indicating that there was no basis for any optimism on the part of the police or prosecution given the 1975 suppression of Ruben Scott's torture statements as there was no other substantiating evidence available to them.

The Judge also declined to rule on a motion by Hank Jones' attorney, John Philipsborn, stating that the defense has a right to all exculpatory evidence in a timely manner and asking for a definitive deadline by which these matters would be resolved.

Prosecutor: "we still hope to find it [some evidence]"

David Druliner, the California prosecutor, opposed any court order that would set any deadline, but admitted that after providing over 104,000 pages of documents "we can't give you something we don't have," and that what the defense is asking for either "doesn't exist or hasn't been found yet." Noting an example he said of the shotgun alleged to be linked to the 1971 murder of Sergeant Young in San Francisco, "we don't know where the shotgun is but we still hope to find it" (this after 35 years of looking!).

Judge Moscone also stated that while the defense has no right to understand the protocols of the Phoenix Taskforce – the multi-agency program which is responsible for bringing about this prosecution – the defense does have the right to subpoena documents from all the agencies involved (The SF Police, the New Orleans Police, the FBI the California Bureau of Investigation and the Attorney Generals offices). The defense has been demanding disclosure about how this Taskforce can reopen this case when there is no new physical evidence and when charges were dropped in the 1970s for lack of evidence.

Courtroom packed

A large picket line preceded the hearing demanding the dropping of charges against the SF 8. The courtroom today was packed beyond capacity forcing some people to wait for a morning recess to attend – all the defendants were in court were part of a joint meeting which included Jalil Muntaqim and Herman Bell who remain in custody. A Berkeley High School class attended the hearing, raising everyone's energy and spirits.

The brothers who are out on bail participated in standing-room only events in both New York City and San Francisco this last weekend.

Gray Panthers report:

About ten Gray Panthers came to the SF-8 hearing today, shouted loudly at a rousing picket line that stretched over half the width of the police building, and sat through at least the morning's hearing, where we were amazed that the state would have the nerve to prosecute a murder case against eight men in the absence of any evidence. The people who came were a good mixture of old members, new members, and older members become active again. I was never so proud of being a Gray Panther.

Update from hearing of October 10, 2007

In front of a packed courtroom, presiding Judge Moscone denied a significant defense motion asking that statements made under torture by Harold Taylor in 1973 be precluded from consideration in this case.

In 1975 a Los Angeles judge ruled these same statements inadmissible in a trial that ultimately resulted in Harold Taylor's acquittal. That case involved a police attack on a car of Black activists in which all three – Ray Boudreaux, John Bowman and Harold Taylor – were fired upon and shot multiple times. After Harold Taylor‚s acquittal, charges were dismissed against Boudreaux and Bowman.

"Sour Grapes"

Randy Montesano, representing Harold Taylor in the current case, argued passionately that the government is continuing in its pattern and practice of trampling on these defendants‚ rights. "The prosecution is trying to litigate the use of coerced and torture-induced statements again," he said, "because of sour grapes" as the court in the mid 1970s heard 8 days of testimony , including 13 witnesses and concluded that Harold Taylor's statements were not made voluntarily in New Orleans. Montesano argued that they have no right to use these same "statements" just because they didn't like the 33-year old outcome. He reiterated that his client still suffers physically and from post traumatic stress disorder today, some 36 years later.

"No way to get a fair hearing"

Judge Moscone denied the motion on narrow legal grounds saying that the Los Angeles decision was not a final adjudication. Moscone did leave the door open for the suppressing of these statements in future hearings. That hearing would force the government to either produce the same witnesses and evidence or face the consequences of the absence of evidence, transcripts and witnesses. Attorney Montesano reiterated "there is no way to get a fair hearing today, especially given the delay of so many years and the passage of time alone precludes any reliable adjudication – so we will ultimately prevail."

Update from hearing August 8, 2007: Judge Delays Bail Decisions

Family and community support for SF8

Family, friends, and community demonstrate
support at bail hearings for
Ray Boudreaux, Richard O'Neal, and Richard Brown.
(Photo: Scott Braley)

Judge Moscone opened the hearing on bail motions for the San Francisco 8 by announcing that he will not make any bail determinations until he has heard all motions for all six of the bail-eligible brothers. Neither Jalil Muntaqim nor Herman Bell is currently bail eligible as they are both still serving New York State sentences.

Richard Brown's Bail Motion

Richard Mazer, representing Richard Brown presented a very compelling case for Richard's bail being set at a reasonable amount and offered additional options to the court to assure his presence for all hearings. It was made abundantly clear that Richard is not a flight risk due to his very deep community ties and that he is no danger to the community. His many years of devotion to his family and community as well as his service as a Community Court Judge Arbitrator were emphasized to counter the repetitive litany from the prosecutors who claim that the only issue relevant to bail is the "killing of cops."

Attorney Mazer also emphasized that the only government evidence is weak and based on the contradictory and perjurious testimony of Ruben Scott, whose role as a government informant was bought for by offers of immunity. Mazer said Richard Brown‚s incentive to appear is great, just as it was during the Grand Jury hearings in 2005, because "when the defendant knows the government's case is weak, he has reasons to stick around." Mazer was clear when arguing that the purpose of bail is not punitive. He also responded to renewed statements by prosecutors likening the SF 8 case to cold-cases in the South by saying that he resents "the fact that they wrap themselves up in the flag of prosecuting civil rights cases."

Update from August 6 – 7: Only 2 brothers in court again!

Court opened with all defense lawyers arguing that all defendants be present for all legal proceedings. The Attorney General argued that there was no legal requirement given that bail motions were not about legal evidence, rather are about individuals addressing individual bail issues. Judge Moscone ruled that because of a "lack of furniture" to accommodate all eight defendants and because he basically agreed that there were no mutual issues and that counsel representing the absent defendants were present, that only Ray Boudreaux and Richard O'Neal would attend today's hearings – as was also the case the previous day. Strenuous objections were made by the defense attorneys.

James Bustamante, Richard O'Neal's attorney, presented arguments in favor of a reasonable and attainable bail. He, like Michael Burt, Ray Boudreaux's attorney, argued that the only evidence linking Richard to the case were statements made by Ruben Scott whose testimony was proven to be perjurious by two courts in the past. In addition, Scott recanted cooperative testimony by explaining that he was tortured in New Orleans in 1973 along with other Black activists, and he was given complete immunity by a 2004 grand jury in San Francisco for any role he might have played in 1971 connecting him to the death of a San Francisco police officer at the Ingleside Station – this in exchange for further cooperative statements.

This key government witness and other matters in evidence are consistently being challenged by the defense attorneys, and this is why they are unanimous in wanting all the brothers to be in court.

Family and community support

Extensive statements were submitted regarding Richard O'Neal's ties to work, community, and family. Many members of his family and friends were present. Testimony was given by a long-time friend, Fannie Sanders, who has known Richard since childhood. Despite being challenged by the Attorney General, Fannie was eloquent and unflappable in her attesting to Richard O'Neal's important role in the community and to his family.

Similar testimony had been heard last month and this week for Ray Boudreaux. Today's hearing included the State prosecutor's argument to increase bail for Ray from $3 million to $5 million.

What evidence?

The crux of the State's arguments and case about bail rests on:

A "gang"?

Arguments made by the State Attorney General claim that the main activities of the eight men were to be part of a "gang" that conspired to attack police officers and that the government's allegations alone are sufficient to deny attainable bail. No arguments were made that Ray Boudreaux or Richard O'Neal would be flights risks, and no substantial arguments were made to support innuendo that they may be a danger to the community today.

In his most egregious argument, the prosecutor likened this case to the recent old-case prosecutions of crimes against Black communities and civil rights leaders in the South. Prosecutor Dave Druliner stated that they (the prosecutors) were just like the guys prosecuting these civil rights cases. But Ray Boudreaux's attorney, Michael Burt, sharply rebutted such claims, explaining that the difference in these Southern cases was that these prosecutions were prevented by institutional racism – by prosecutors' refusal to pursue white supremacists who targeted Blacks.

"Institutional racism didn't prevent this (the SF 8) prosecution for 35 years – what has changed is not the evidence but the will to proceed," said Burt. The FBI has been "dogging all these men with hundreds of agents, pursuing this conspiracy in the hopes that somebody would turn, and they haven't." (And not to speak of COINTELPRO's targeting of the Black liberation movement and its activists.)

Unjustified delay

Michael Burt concluded that the case raises issues of unjustified delays because the State prosecutors have proffered no new evidence, and are relying mainly on statements by and attributed to Ruben Scott, who is not only a victim of torture himself, but has offered contradictory and false statements for years to prosecutors and now serves their purposes once more.

 

June 19-21, 2007: bail hearings begin



Outside the courthouse supporting the San Francisco 8
A large crowd first demonstrated
outside the courthouse, then queued up
to enter the hearing room.
(Photos: Scott Braley)

Waiting for the SF8 bail hearing


Shackled? Unshackled? A little bit shackled?

Court shackling issues remain to be addressed. When asked, the judge did have deputies partially unshackle the brothers so they could take notes during proceedings. Moscone indicated that they had rights to more room in which to work with their attorneys. If this is any indication of the judge's attitude, courtroom conditions could well improve instead of the current waist chains, hands cuffed to waist chains and legs cuffed to leg chains. The current conditions are the prosecutor's dream.

June 19: Motions to Seal Documents

Lawyers for the SF 8 argued to seal or suppress documents and statements filed by the prosecutors in opposition to bail reduction. The defense argued that the government wants to use statements made under torture and duress as well as criminal histories filled with factual inaccuracies dating back over 36 years to give the impression that these Black elders are a threat to public safety or are flight risks.

Prejudice

The government wanted to introduce documents that will not only prejudice bail arguments but will continue to criminalize these men to the media and public. Instead the defense lawyers raised strong challenges to statements made after people suffered electrocution, asphyxiation, sensory deprivation, and beatings. Lawyers will attempt to clarify which documents are at issue during hearings in September.

Protecting Constitutional rights

Attorney Daro Inouye was officially appointed to represent Jalil Muntaqim. He and Jalil joined in the defense motions regarding prejudicial documents, stating that some of the materials and old statements would violate Jalil's constitutional rights if introduced.

Update from the April 27, 2007 hearing: Support for the San Francisco 8 strong and growing!

Hank Jones, John Bowman (deceased), Ray Boudreaux, Harold Taylor, and Richard Brown

Demonstrators at the San Francisco court house call for freeing the San Francisco 8, April 27, 2007.    (Photo: rmcb)

More than 150 spirited supporters of the San Francisco 8 rallied in front of the SF Courthouse at noon today. The crowd included numerous family members and community activist who shared their outrage that this case is being brought and that these men are locked up.

Suspicious "evidence" sealed

The defendants asked that Judge Little seal and remove portions of a response to their challenge to courtroom shackling by the prosecution that included SF County Sheriff-produced maps of the courtroom, including back exits, an accompanying scenario of escape possibilities, and details of how to produce smoke bombs. The defense argued that these materials constituted a setup on the brothers, who if caught with such materials in their cells, could be construed to be engaging in escape plans – precisely what the attorney general argued was the basis for the high levels of security. The evidence is, in reality and in this case, written by the police and is being distributed by the prosecution. The judge had these plans removed from the record and destroyed. Judge Little also sealed details of the defendants criminal histories which, according to the defendants, were replete with false statements by the prosecutors. For now those records are under public seal.

Hank Jones, John Bowman (deceased), Ray Boudreaux, Harold Taylor, and Richard Brown

Lloyd Jones, Mattie Scott, Judy Hughes and Paulette Brown,
members of the Healing Circle, a group of parents who have
lost loved ones to violence, came to the SF 8 hearing
to ask why the police are imprisoning these community leaders,
who have worked to stop the violence, when their
loved ones' cases have not been solved.
(Photo: Scott Braley)

Overflowing support at February 14, 2007 hearing

by Claude Marks and Cynthia Nelson

In a significant showing of support, family and friends of four of the San Francisco 8 packed the San Francisco courtroom of Judge Little on Wednesday. The Healing Circle, a group of Black parents who have lost loved ones to violence, were the most visible assembly. They carried signs bearing the names of those they had lost, questioning the City’s pursuit of these ancient cases – against men who worked with youngsters to stop the violence – while it closes the investigations into their children’s killings. Many people were unable to get into the overflowing courtroom. And despite the usual metal detectors and bag searches at the entrance to the building, those entering the courtroom were again scanned with metal detector wands.

“No justice, no peace.“

As the four – Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Hank Jones and Richard O‘Neal – were brought into the courtroom in shackles, supporters burst into applause, long and loud. See video footage. The judge immediately halted the proceedings, and the large showing of sheriff’s and SWAT officers cleared the courtroom. Supporters filled the hallway outside Department 12 chanting, "No justice, no peace." Defense attorneys objected to closing a public hearing and the judge agreed to let people back into court if they agreed not to be noisy, but only after every individual was again searched by sheriff’s deputies and wanded.

Unlike their previous court appearances since the arrests in January, the men were shackled in court, and close to a dozen sheriff’s deputies and SWAT officers were inside the courtroom. The hearing opened with defense attorneys arguing against the redundant wanding at the courtroom entrance and for the unshackling of the brothers as “they represent no threat to the court or the public."

Prejudicial security feeds sensationalist coverage

They pointed out that the men had appeared voluntarily and without need of such extensive police presence during the 2005 San Francisco Grand Jury and that the shackling and heavy security were prejudicial – especially feeding the sensationalist coverage of the corporate media. The court agreed to hear security issues in a future meeting with the sheriff and lawyers.

The defense called for full disclosure of government documents, some of which were described as inaccurate and inflammatory. Some government documents had been presented to the court in secret hearings outside the presence of defense attorneys, where they could not be contested. “Today’s court appearance was significant in a number of ways,“ explained attorney Stuart Hanlon. “The strong public support for the four men in court was a powerful reminder that these men are part of their communities and are not criminals. It was made clear to us that this is the beginning skirmish of a legal war with high stakes – the freedom of these eight former Panthers and the rewriting of political history by the government criminalizing the Black Panther Party and African American freedom fighters from the ‘60s and ‘70s. It is a war we will win and that we have to win. And it is a war where the support of the community, in and out of court, is crucial.“

Claude Marks, founder and director of Freedom Archives, can be reached at claude [at] freedomarchives [dot] org.
Cynthia Nelson, journalism graduate student at New College and intern at the Bay View, can be reached at cynthianellie [at] gmail [dot] com.

 

Free the San Francisco 8 buttonCommittee for the Defense of Human Rights
P.O. Box 90221
Pasadena, CA 91109

(415) 226-1120
E-mail:   freethesf8 [at] gmail [dot] com
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