- Minneapolis City Council Hearing on Police Hiring and Diversity
- Community Lawsuit Goes to Court
- Annual Dinner a Wonderful Success
- WHERE'S JUSTICE? Analysis of a Campaign Ad
- Dancing in the Street Lands Minneapolis Homeless Man in Jail
- Update on the Police State
- Bush Vigorously Defends Domestic Spying
- Agents' Visit Chills UMass Dartmouth Senior
- Miami Police to Stage Random Shows of Force
- Good News: Court Limits Cause for Police Searches
- Two Prisoners Named Williams
- Lost Innocence: False Charge Altered Boys' Lives
CUAPB HOLIDAY MEETING SCHEDULE
CUAPB board members have decided that we will hold our regular weekly meetings at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 24th and Saturday, December 31st but that these meetings will be abbreviated. We made this decision based on the importance of projects we are currently working on. We meet every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Walker Church, 3104 16th Ave S and our meetings are open to the public.
Although not much is happening for the rest of this month, some of us are taking advantage of days off from work to do a bit of court watching. If you'd like to join us for a few hours, call our hotline at 612-874-7867. The courts can be a fascinating place to be--you never know what you'll see.
Minneapolis City Council's Public Safety & Regulatory Services Committee
Hearing on Police Hiring and Diversity
January 4, 2006
Minneapolis City Hall
350 S. 5th Street, City Council Chambers
The community has just plain gotten disgusted that the last several new hires to the Minneapolis police department have been white men, despite specific provisions in the Federal mediation agreement directing the city to engage in hiring practices that would diversify the force. The community is organizing to send a message to the NEW (post-election) PS&RS committee that their continued failure to diversify the force is not acceptable. Be there to see the sparks fly!
IT'S FINALLY HAPPENING! PACK THE COURTROOM!
Federal Court Hearing on Our Community Lawsuit!
February 15 & 16, 2006 at 9:00 a.m.
Federal District Court
300 S 4th St, Minneapolis
At long last, our community lawsuit is going to court. To remind you, this was the lawsuit that was filed when it became clear that the city had hijacked the federal mediation process. The purpose of the lawsuit has been to force policy and practice changes within the Minneapolis police department. The city has settled on a number of the community's demands but there are still some issues outstanding, including justice for Darryl Robinson, the main named plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Darryl was beaten by a Minneapolis cop while another watched, when all he had been doing was walking down the street. His eardrum was ruptured when the officer pounded on his head, and the cop who did it then poured seltzer water into his ruptured ear, causing excruciating pain. Officers left him lying in the alleyway and never charged Darryl with any crime or even filed a police report.
Darryl took himself to the hospital and demanded to make a complaint against the officer. MPD sent a Sergeant to HCMC to interview him, but somehow the audiotape of that interview was "lost." Darryl tried to follow up, but no one at the City would do anything. A year and a half later, he contacted us when it was clear the MPD was not going to do anything to investigate criminal charges against one of their own. He feels that this shows a systemic problem in the MPD, and we agree. That's when Darryl decided to be part of a legal action designed to force changes. Word on the street is that this lawsuit is behind McManus' revamping of Internal Affairs but so far, it's not enough.
Darryl is a brave man and a true hero to the community. Since becoming the named plaintiff, he has been harassed repeatedly and has even had to give up driving due to constant traffic stops. Yet he has continued to stand strong in his demand for justice and for changes within the Minneapolis police department. This court hearing will be the opportunity for the community to hear first hand Darryl's story along with issues related to accountability within the MPD. COME TO COURT AND STAND WITH DARRYL AND OTHERS WRONGED BY POLICE VIOLENCE AND MISCONDUCT.
ANNUAL DINNER A WONDERFUL SUCCESS!
Thanks to all who attended our annual survivor/family/volunteer/friends dinner on December 11th. We had a great turnout and folks supped on some outrageously delicious food prepared by survivor and volunteer Derrick W. with help from Buddy H., Cindy C., Stephen T. and others. Sweet friends and supporters Peter M., Janelle C., Dave B. and others contributed wonderful goodies to the meal. We're also very grateful to our five student interns Jamie S., Alison L., Mallory S., Bobby M. and Mohamed B., who have worked hard all semester on our false reporting bill project and then stepped it up during the dinner--cooking, serving, cleaning, you name it. Even Jamie's friend John joined us in the kitchen and became one of the cooks. Thirty-five pounds of chicken and ten pounds of pasta later, everyone had full bellies and happy hearts.
It was so nice to look out into the dining area and see people we met through out hotline talking together, exchanging phone numbers, offering to help. We'll have more of these events in the new year and would definitely encourage you to take part.
WHERE'S JUSTICE? Analysis of a Campaign Ad
During the recent mayoral election, candidate Peter McLaughlin sent out a slick, last-minute advertisement entitled "Where's Officer Waldo?" with the tag line "150 reasons crime is out of control in Minneapolis."
The front page of this piece shows a TV store and a large parking lot or street (it's not altogether clear which) with several people around it. The bridge and buildings in the background seem to indicate that this locale is a short distance from downtown Minneapolis. Within the space around the store, there are approximately 90 people (some are cut off by the title banner across the center of the picture and are only partially visible) and 31 separate crimes are depicted.
Of the people depicted, the racial breakdown is as follows :
Caucasians: 53, or 58.9% of the total
People of Color: 35, or 38.9% of the total
Unable to be determined: 2, or 2.2% of the total
People of color are 34.9% of Minneapolis residents, so are somewhat over-represented in this ad. Interestingly, the police officer shown appears to be a person of color.
Quite a range of crimes are depicted, include murder, auto theft, looting, armed robbery, drug dealing, pick pocketing, assault with a weapon, public drunkenness, loitering, auto fire, other illegal fire, child abuse/domestic assault. Many of the crimes involved guns or knives.
Of the "people" involved in the crimes, here's the breakdown. Bear in mind that some of the crimes depicted were "victimless," i.e. public drunkenness, loitering, etc. Some of the crimes depicted involved multiple perpetrators or victims.
White = 30 (76.9%)
People of Color = 9 (23.1%)
According to the BCA, whites are 72.6% of arrests for crimes statewide while people of color are 27.4% of arrests. Although arrests include those who are not convicted later, it would appear that this ad has things in almost the right proportions. Interestingly, though, Minneapolis police seem to have turned reality on its head with their arrests. Their 2003 annual report (the latest year available) indicates that whites are 28.4% of those arrested while people of color are 71.6% of those arrested by MPD.
White = 3 (18.7%)
People of Color = 13 (81.3%)
There do not appear to be statistics that track crime victims by race within Minneapolis or within the State. However, the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that people of color are about twice as likely to be crime victims as whites (11.2 per 1000 vs. 6.3 per 1000 population). Unless Minneapolis is far outside national trends, this ad depicts people of color as crime victims far out of proportion to reality. Perhaps this depiction was meant to appeal to people of color, who were considered pivotal in the outcome of the election.
Rate of Crime:
According to the BCA, the crime rate for Hennepin county in 2004 was 4.38 crimes per 100 people. The ad depicts 31 crimes per 90 people. Clearly, this far exceeds the actual rate, fueling the false sense conveyed in the tag line that "crime is out of control in Minneapolis." Moreover, according to both the BCA and the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, rates are down for all categories of crime.
The ad depicts one police officer in the crowd of 90 people. Interestingly, that cop is shown walking or running with gun drawn, though it is unclear which specific situation the officer is responding to. It is arguable that the officer waiving the gun without apparent cause could also be counted as a crime.
According to the BCA, Minneapolis has 2.7 officers per 1000 population, while most other municipalities in the state have significantly lower rates of officers (1.8 officers per 1000 is typical).
This ad relies on the depiction of a very high number of crimes in a small area to create a sense that Minneapolis is wildly out of control and that there is a severe shortage of police officers to respond to a high rate of crime. Thankfully, the ad did not resort to racist depictions of people of color as perpetrators, though people of color were depicted as victims at a rate far exceeding reality.
Although Minneapolis employs a higher rate per capita of police officers than any other city in the state, the main message in the ad is that there is a severe shortage of cops in Minneapolis and that adding more cops would somehow stem crime. Given the rate of police brutality in this city, our experience shows that the crime of police brutality would likely actually increase with an spate of new cops, if policies and accountability are not improved.
While this ad was no doubt a tactic meant to sway voters toward candidate McLaughlin, it is a pretty outrageous attempt to portray the city as a violent, dangerous place where people of color are highly likely to experience crimes and where more cops somehow equals less crime. It's interesting that this ad did not address the horrific disparities in arrests of people of color in Minneapolis or how hiring more cops would fix THAT problem.
It's important for voters to dig past the glossy exterior and see these kinds of ads for what they are--an attempt to appeal to our more base instincts. Apparently, the community didn't "buy" the goods, as candidate McLaughlin was not elected. Nonetheless, these kinds of ads plant seeds in people's minds and only by carefully analyzing them can we dispel the myths they propagate.
DANCING IN THE STREET LANDS HOMELESS MAN IN JAIL
We got the following from friend and homeless activist Margaret Hastings. It is strange but true that Minneapolis has an ordinance against dancing in the street. Mpls. Ord. 427.240 ("No person shall dance or engage or participate in any dancing upon any public street or highway in the city"). Leave it to Minneapolis to have such a ridiculous law and then to enforce it on a homeless man. Strange how we've never seen it applied during the Holidazzle, Aquatennial or other street festivals.
Jig is up for Cheery Homeless Man who Dared to Dance
Sometimes a guy feels so good he just wants to start dancing.
Doug Grow, Star Tribune
December 17, 2005
Sometimes a guy feels so good he just wants to start dancing.
Ah, but don't let that happen in Minneapolis. If you break out in dance on a Minneapolis street you can be hit with a $112 fine.
It happened to 45-year-old Paul Wicklund early in the morning of Dec. 2. He was dancing -- and, according to University of Minnesota police, singing at the top of his lungs -- in the 300 block of Washington Avenue SE. He was stopped and ticketed for being in violation of city statue 427.20.
"No person shall dance or engage or participate in any dancing upon any public street or highway in the city; and no person shall provide for, promote or conduct any dance or dancing upon any public street or highway in the city, except at a block party."
On the surface, you wouldn't think Wicklund would have much to dance about. His spouse booted him out of his home about a month ago, leaving him homeless. In addition, he's been bedeviled by alcohol for years.
Yet at 5:30 a.m. Dec. 2, Wicklund was a happy man.
Earlier, he'd been visiting his seriously ill grandson at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.
"I was up in the family waiting room, and the nurse said he was doing well," Wicklund said. "That was an improvement from stable. Made me very happy."
Wicklund said he slipped into the chapel to offer a prayer of thanks. (He's a very religious man, though he can cuss a blue streak.) He also took a few nips of vodka.
"Bringing the bottle in was my mistake," Wicklund said. "I was high, but quiet -- but somebody saw me take a drink."
Three people from the hospital staff escorted Wicklund from the building.
Once on the street, he decided to listen (on a portable disc player he says someone lent him) to his favorite CD, "American Idiot," by Green Day. Wicklund, a self-deprecating fellow, loves the title.
"You could stamp that on my head," he said, laughing.
He said he was "grooving to the tunes" as he went down the sidewalk outside the hospital. But when he saw a police car behind him, he figured the sidewalk might be hospital property. He moved to the street and the police stepped in.
The police version of events isn't much different. According to Steve Johnson, the University Police Department's deputy chief, two officers were having a smoke outside a station near the hospital when they spotted Wicklund.
The officers wrote a colorful report of Wicklund "singing his own song and cussing the police and the world." He also was dancing. The officers said they feared Wicklund would dance into traffic.
Even when they stepped into his groove, the officers said, Wicklund continued to cuss at them and flipped them the bird, yelling, "the world sucks." Thus the ticket for dancing.
(Johnson speculates that the ordinance, which came into existence in 1960, likely was born of overexuberance at outdoor concerts. Hootenannies, perhaps?)
Wicklund finds the ordinance absurd. "I want to take this to the Supreme Court," said Wicklund.
So far, though, he says no lawyer has stepped up.
"I've gone to a bunch of law offices telling them I've got a case that will bring them some great public relations," he said.
Apparently the lawyers won't dance until they see the money.
UPDATE ON THE POLICE STATE
Continued, timely reminders of the ties between the war at home and the war abroad...
Article 1: Bush Vigorously Defends Domestic Spying
By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent
Accused of acting above the law, President Bush forcefully defended a domestic spying program on Monday as an effective tool in disrupting terrorists and insisted it was not an abuse of Americans' civil liberties.
Bush said it was "a shameful act" for someone to have leaked details to the media. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said it was "probably the most classified program that exists in the United States government"--involving electronic intercepts of telephone calls and e-mails in the U.S. of people with known ties to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.
At a news conference, Bush bristled at the suggestion he was assuming unlimited powers.
"To say `unchecked power' basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject," he said angrily in a finger-pointing answer. "I am doing what you expect me to do, and at the same time, safeguarding the civil liberties of the country."
Despite Bush's defense, there was a growing storm of criticism from Congress and calls for investigations, from Democrats and Republicans alike. West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a handwritten letter expressing concern to Vice President Dick Cheney after being briefed more than two years ago.
Rockefeller complained then that the information was so restricted he was "unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities." He registered concern about the administration's direction on security, technology and surveillance issues.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he would ask Bush's Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito, his views of the president's authority for spying without a warrant.
"Where does he find in the Constitution the authority to tap the wires and the phones of American citizens without any court oversight?" asked Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Bush's interpretation of the Constitution was "incorrect and dangerous."
Bush said he had asked, "Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is, absolutely,"
The spying uproar was the latest controversy about Bush's handling of the war on terror, after questions about secret prisons in Eastern Europe, secrecy-cloaked government directives, torture allegations and a death toll of more than 2,150 Americans in Iraq. As a result, Bush's approval rating has slumped as has Americans' confidence in his leadership.
Appealing for support, Bush used the word "understand" 25 times in a nearly hour-long news conference. "I hope the American people understand--there is still an enemy that would like to strike the United States of America, and they're very dangerous," he said. Similarly, he said he hoped that blacks who doubt his intentions "understand that I care about them."
Bush challenged Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.--without naming them--to allow a final vote on legislation renewing the anti-terror Patriot Act, saying it was inexcusable to let it expire. "I want senators from New York or Los Angeles or Las Vegas to go home and explain why these cities are safer" without the extension, he said.
Reid and Clinton both helped block passage of the legislation in the Senate last week.
Bush noted that U.S. intelligence agencies have been faulted for failing to "connect the dots" about threats to the nation's security. He said the Patriot Act and the spying program help take care of that problem.
Reid fired back: "The president and the Republican leadership should stop playing politics with the Patriot Act," he said in a statement that added he and other Democrats favor a three-month extension of the expiring law to allow time for a long-term compromise.
The legislation has cleared the House but Senate Democrats have blocked final passage and its prospects are uncertain in the congressional session's final days. Scolded by Bush, key lawmakers reopened talks by setting out the rough parameters of a deal: Extending the act for one to four years.
Bush said the electronic eavesdropping program, conducted by the National Security Agency, lets the government move faster than the standard practice of seeking a court-authorized warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. "We've got to be fast on our feet, quick to detect and prevent," the president said.
The president said the authority to bypass the court derived from the Constitution and Congress' vote authorizing the use of military force after the 2001 terror attacks.
"I can fully understand why members of Congress are expressing concerns about civil liberties," the president said. "I want to make sure the American people understand, however, that we have an obligation to protect you, and we're doing that, and at the same time, protecting your civil liberties."
Former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle said he was briefed by the White House between 2002 and 2004 but was not told key details about the scope of the program. "Even with some of the more troublesome--and potentially illegal--details omitted, I still raised significant concern about these actions," Daschle said.
Daschle's successor, Reid, said he received a single briefing earlier this year and that important details were withheld. "We need to investigate this program and the president's legal authority to carry it out," Reid said.
Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has been regularly briefed and believes the program is consistent with U.S. laws and the Constitution, his office said. A statement said he was talking with Senate leaders about how to expand Congress' oversight.
Bush was cool toward investigations, saying, "An open debate would say to the enemy, `Here is what we're going to do.' And this is an enemy which adjusts." He said the administration had consulted with Congress more than a dozen times.
On another issue, Bush acknowledged that a pre-war failure of intelligence--claiming Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction--has complicated the U.S. ability to confront other potential emerging threats such as Iran.
"Where it is going to be most difficult to make the case is in the public arena," Bush said. "People will say, if we're trying to make the case on Iran, `Well, if the intelligence failed in Iraq, therefore, how can we trust the intelligence on Iran?'"
Article 2: Agents' Visit Chills UMass Dartmouth Senior
By AARON NICODEMUS, Standard-Times staff writer
NEW BEDFORD -- A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called "The Little Red Book."
Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program.
The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand's class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents' home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said.
The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a "watch list," and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.
"I tell my students to go to the direct source, and so he asked for the official Peking version of the book," Professor Pontbriand said. "Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring inter-library loans, because that's what triggered the visit, as I understand it."
Although The Standard-Times knows the name of the student, he is not coming forward because he fears repercussions should his name become public. He has not spoken to The Standard-Times.
The professors had been asked to comment on a report that President Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to spy on as many as 500 people at any given time since 2002 in this country.
The eavesdropping was apparently done without warrants.
The Little Red Book, is a collection of quotations and speech excerpts from Chinese leader Mao Tse-Tung.
In the 1950s and '60s, during the Cultural Revolution in China, it was required reading. Although there are abridged versions available, the student asked for a version translated directly from the original book.
The student told Professor Pontbriand and Dr. Williams that the Homeland Security agents told him the book was on a "watch list." They brought the book with them, but did not leave it with the student, the professors said.
Dr. Williams said in his research, he regularly contacts people in Afghanistan, Chechnya and other Muslim hot spots, and suspects that some of his calls are monitored.
"My instinct is that there is a lot more monitoring than we think," he said.
Dr. Williams said he had been planning to offer a course on terrorism next semester, but is reconsidering, because it might put his students at risk.
"I shudder to think of all the students I've had monitoring al-Qaeda Web sites, what the government must think of that," he said. "Mao Tse-Tung is completely harmless."
Contact Aaron Nicodemus at firstname.lastname@example.org
Article 3: Miami Police Take New Tack Against Terror
By Curt Anderson, Associated Press Writer
November 28, 2005
MIAMI --Miami police announced Monday they will stage random shows of force at hotels, banks and other public places to keep terrorists guessing and remind people to be vigilant.
Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez said officers might, for example, surround a bank building, check the IDs of everyone going in and out and hand out leaflets about terror threats.
"This is an in-your-face type of strategy. It's letting the terrorists know we are out there," Fernandez said.
The operations will keep terrorists off guard, Fernandez said. He said al-Qaida and other terrorist groups plot attacks by putting places under surveillance and watching for flaws and patterns in security.
Police Chief John Timoney said there was no specific, credible threat of an imminent terror attack in Miami. But he said the city has repeatedly been mentioned in intelligence reports as a potential target.
Timoney also noted that 14 of the 19 hijackers who took part in the Sept. 11 attacks lived in South Florida at various times and that other alleged terror cells have operated in the area.
Both uniformed and plainclothes police will ride buses and trains, while others will conduct longer-term surveillance operations.
But at the same time, we don't want people to feel their rights are being threatened. We need them to be our eyes and ears."
Howard Simon, executive director of ACLU of Florida, said the Miami initiative appears aimed at ensuring that people's rights are not violated.
"What we're dealing with is officers on street patrol, which is more effective and more consistent with the Constitution," Simon said. "We'll have to see how it is implemented."
Mary Ann Viverette, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said the Miami program is similar to those used for years during the holiday season to deter criminals at busy places such as shopping malls.
"You want to make your presence known and that's a great way to do it," said Viverette, police chief in Gaithersburg, Md. "We want people to feel they can go about their normal course of business, but we want them to be aware." ? Copyright <http://www.boston.com/help/bostoncom_info/copyright> 2005 The New York Times Company
Article 4: A Bit of Good News
Court limits cause for police searches
Conrad Defiebre, Star Tribune
December 3, 2005
An agitated, suspicious driver and a drunken passenger did not justify a vehicle search by police, the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled in a case that broadens state constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
The ruling on Thursday brought the dismissal of felony charges against a Winona woman on grounds that an early-morning search in February 2004 that turned up crack cocaine in her car and on her person was illegal.
"To allow a vehicle search solely because an adult passenger smelled of alcohol would be to permit highly speculative searches against a large group of entirely law-abiding motorists, including designated drivers," Justice Russell Anderson wrote for the court. "Such a rule would not comport with the substantial privacy interest in motor vehicles that the Minnesota Constitution ensures."
The court also ruled out the woman's alleged nervous behavior after being stopped for speeding as a basis for a search without a warrant.
But Winona County Attorney Chuck MacLean, who prosecuted the case, said the court ignored important evidence that a Winona police officer relied upon to reach a reasonable suspicion that drugs would be found.
"He recognized that she was under the influence of a stimulant," MacLean said Friday. "She wasn't nervous. She was tweaking on the drugs. The cop did the right thing. He couldn't let her get back in the car and drive off."
Urine testing after the arrest showed marijuana and cocaine in the woman's system.
The court noted, however, that the woman, Peggy Burbach, 43, of Winona, passed a raft of sobriety tests, including a breath analysis that showed no alcohol, leaving only the officer's observation that she was "significantly more nervous, fidgety and talkative than a normal person in a traffic stop."
The court also found police narcotics squad intelligence that Burbach was known to carry crack cocaine in her car -- information the arresting officer had received a week or two earlier -- did not justify the search.
Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, praised the decision. "Certainly this was a very, very subjective case," he said. "The police have to have more to back up a search than just a hunch."
TWO PRISONERS NAMED WILLIAMS
by DAN BERGER
In denying Stanley Tookie Williams clemency, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the former gang leader had failed to prove his redemption. Part of his argument rested on the fact that Williams had dedicated one of his books to a group of political activists, mostly black, who have all served time in prison, as well as a general dedication to those "who have to endure the hellish oppression of living behind bars." The governor was particularly incensed that Williams included George Jackson in the dedication list, saying that the late black militant's inclusion "defies reason and is a significant indicator that Williams is not reformed."
In 1958, at the age of 18, George Jackson was given the brutally vague sentence of one-year-to-life for his role in a $70 gas station robbery. While in prison, Jackson began to change his life: He read voraciously, was an outspoken political analyst and became a leading figure in the Black Power movement of the late 1960s and early '70s. The Black Panther Party made him a field marshal, and support committees sprang up nationally after he was charged in 1970, along with John Clutchette and Fleeta Drumgo, of murdering a prison guard. Jackson's book of prison letters, Soledad Brother, became a bestseller, complete with an introduction by noted author Jean Genet. Jackson was killed August 21, 1971, during an alleged escape attempt from San Quentin.
By 2005 George Jackson is far from a household name, and yet Schwarzenegger found him appalling enough to merit silencing forever the 51-year-old Williams, who had endeavored in the last ten years of his incarceration to dissuade young people from joining gangs. On December 13, the state of California executed Williams by lethal injection for four 1979 murders. To the end, Williams maintained he was innocent.
Five days before Tookie Williams's execution, another man by the name of Williams died in prison. Fifty-eight-year-old Richard Williams came from a different background but shared some similarities with the Crips co-founder. From a white working-class area outside Boston, Richard Williams had several brushes with the law and by the time he was 23, was serving time for robbery. It was 1971--George Jackson had been killed and one month later the rebellion at Attica Correctional Facility took place. Richard Williams began organizing for better conditions in the New Hampshire prison, where he was incarcerated.
He got out a few years later and threw himself into an array of antiracist organizing efforts: Among other things, he helped organize the historic 1979 Amandla Concert at Harvard Stadium, an antiapartheid benefit show featuring Bob Marley. On November 4, 1984--his thirty-seventh birthday--Richard was arrested in Ohio with four others. All were accused of membership in the United Freedom Front (UFF), a group of white activists who bombed a select collection of government or corporate buildings in the early 1980s, mostly in and around New York City--including General Electric, IBM, Union Carbide, Army and Navy offices--to protest US financial and political support for the apartheid regime and death squads in Central America. No one was injured in the blasts.
Richard faced a series of trials with seven others--two of whom, Jaan Laaman and Tom Manning, remain in prison. In 1986 he was sentenced to forty-five years for his role in five bombings and, with Manning, given a life sentence in 1991 for the death of a New Jersey state trooper, killed during a 1981 shootout. With two of his comrades, Williams was tried of seditious conspiracy in 1989, a rarely used law passed in 1918 that bars "two or more persons...to overthrow or put down or destroy by force the Government of the United States." The jury failed to convict the trio, and despite the millions of dollars it had spent on the case, the government did not pursue the case after the judge declared a mistrial. Still, Williams already had a lengthy sentence, and he remained in prison.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, however, Richard was inexplicably placed in isolation for fifteen months at Lompoc prison in California. According to Diane Fujino, a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara who monitored his case, Richard's health soon deteriorated: He had a heart attack, was treated for cancer and suffered assorted maladies without adequate medical care, including hepatitis C, which caused liver failure and ultimately led to his death. He was transferred to the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, last month; he died there on the morning of December 8. Neither his post-9/11 isolation nor his death captured headlines.
So in less than one week, two prisoners have died--flawed men, each of whom had tried in some fashion to promote social justice. One was executed openly and deliberately, because his antiviolence work with young people was somehow nullified in part by dedicating a book to black radicals. The other was killed slowly and quietly, because he fought quite literally against the pernicious acts of his own government on behalf of the oppressed people of South Africa and Central America.
Although the two men had different life experiences, emerged from different communities and never met, their lives--and deaths--intersect. The government feared both men, not as individuals but for what they represented: Stanley Tookie Williams, an ex-gang member who commemorated the lessons of Black Power into antiviolence messages for youth, and Richard Williams, a committed anti-imperialist who never divorced himself from movements opposing war and racism. Whether they entered prison with a political consciousness or developed it on the inside, Richard Williams and Stanley Williams both were inspired by a unique legacy of radical social justice.
It is not just tough-on-crime and tough-on-terror policies that led Stanley Williams to be executed and Richard Williams to be sent to solitary confinement for more than a year. It is that both men were inspired by anti-establishment heroes--from George Jackson to Nelson Mandela, from struggling black urban youth in America to Third World peasants and beyond. Both men embraced the difficult task of remembering. Memory can be burdensome, even uncomfortable, because to remember requires a conscious choice to pay attention to human tragedy. To remember is to choose sides.
The memories Stanley Tookie Williams and Richard Williams invoked were, it would seem, more than the government wanted to deal with. But the issues their lives and deaths raise--the specter of Black Power, anti-imperialism, personal redemption and political commitment--will not be buried with them.
LOST INNOCENCE: FALSE CHARGE ALTERED BOYS' LIVES
Saturday, November 5, 2005; Posted: 12:44 p.m. EST (17:44 GMT)
CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Even now, years later, the mug shots are jarring.
The murder suspect wears a red-and-purple T-shirt with a playful animal design. His height and weight: 4-foot-7 and 70 pounds.
This suspect has almost no history. He has never held a job. He has no need for a Social Security number. He isn't even halfway through elementary school.
He's just 8.
The child, identified in court documents as E.H., was charged, along with his 7-year-old playmate, with the slaying of an 11-year-old girl, Ryan Harris.
The 1998 case captured national headlines as the two became among the youngest children in the nation ever formally accused of murder.
While the charges quickly unraveled, the two boys eventually turned the tables on their accusers.
City pays $11 million
After seven years, a final agreement has been reached in civil cases that charged the city and the police with wrongful arrest.
Last month, the city approved a multimillion-dollar settlement of one suit, having ordered its lawyers to negotiate an agreement even as a jury trial was nearing its end. An earlier case was resolved out of court.
Nearly $11 million in taxpayer money, including legal fees, has been paid to close what an alderman called the "one of the most shameful episodes in our city's history."
And yet, in settling, the city admitted no wrongdoing. No police were sanctioned.
Case shows what can go wrong
This was not the first time children have been wrongly accused or confessed to something they didn't do.
But the case offers a rare glimpse into how it can happen -- what detectives may say and do behind closed doors, and how a harrowing journey from a police station to the courts and a psychiatric hospital can change the lives of two little boys.
E.H., a high school freshman, turns 16 this month. When he took the witness stand for the civil case in August, he didn't look at the jury. Nor did he glance at two men sitting at the defense table: James Cassidy and Allen Nathaniel, the detectives -- the former retired, the latter still on the force -- accused of framing him.
Nearly half his life had passed since news helicopters had buzzed over his house and he was called "little killer."
He recalled the day when he rode bikes with friends, including Ryan Harris, and watched her enter a red car with two men. Then he ended up at the police station, where he assumed he'd look at photos to try to identify them.
Instead, police surrounded him and showed him a photo of a badly beaten body in a weed-filled lot; Ryan Harris' panties were jammed down her throat, leaves stuffed in her nostrils.
"They were hollering at me, asking me if I killed her," the boy told his lawyer, Andre Grant, in a near whisper.
"Did you tell them you killed Ryan Harris?' Grant asked.
"I said I didn't do anything," he answered.
"Were you afraid?"
The charges against E.H. depended largely on the purported confession of his friend, identified as R.G., who was questioned separately. According to police, the 7-year-old said he threw a rock at Ryan, and she fell off her bike and hit her head. Then, he allegedly said, he and E.H. dragged her into a wooded area, where R.G. stuffed the girl's underwear in her mouth.
Attorneys for the boys have long ridiculed that claim, noting R.G. had a serious speech impediment and could barely string two or three words together -- much less a 16-sentence confession.
"To say that he could tell a story from start and to finish was patently absurd," argues Jan Susler, a lawyer for R.G. "These two little kids were scared out of their brains."
It's not difficult for police officers to shape a kid's message, says Stephen Ceci, a professor of developmental psychology at Cornell University and an expert on child confessions. "They're putty in the hands of a powerful adult authority figure," he said.
In this case, the boys were questioned without lawyers or family in the room. Their statements were not recorded. And from the moment they walked out, both denied they'd ever confessed.
'Good boys don't lie'
"I didn't do it, Grandma," R.G. repeatedly said after the interrogation, during which police held his hand and bought him a Happy Meal and a toy car.
At the time, the detectives, Cassidy and Nathaniel, were praised by police for having "performed magnificently" in cracking what had become a "heater" case, with heavy public and political pressure for an arrest.
Seven years later, the detectives defended their actions, saying both boys had implicated themselves. But the detectives also made some troubling admissions.
Cassidy testified he hadn't reviewed the files, yet still managed to get a confession on his first day on the case -- though dozens of investigators had been working on it for weeks.
He acknowledged that E.H., a second-grader, probably didn't understand his version of Miranda warnings. Cassidy called them "kiddie rights" and they included the admonition: "Good boys don't lie."
Officer's troubling history
This wasn't Cassidy's first controversy involving a child suspect. In 1994, he said an 11-year-old boy blurted out that he had killed an elderly neighbor. The boy tried to recant, but was convicted.
In 2002, a federal judge tossed out the murder conviction, saying the arrest was illegal and the confession coerced. The young man sued; the case was settled out of court.
In the Harris case, it took police about a month to rule out the boys and drop charges. DNA led authorities to a convicted sex offender, Floyd Durr, who awaits trial in Ryan's murder.
By then, the boys had spent about a week in a psychiatric hospital. Their parents said they were told if they didn't consent, they'd risk losing them to state custody.
Both families have moved away. But years later, they'd argue, scars remain.
One of E.H.'s lawyers, R. Eugene Pincham, says, "This will be with him the rest of his life."
A photo of E.H. as a beaming 8-year-old clutching his cat was flashed on a courtroom wall for the jurors.
Then came the witnesses: the boy's mother, teachers and a psychiatrist claiming he went from being a chatty, sociable kid at the top of his class to a recluse with poor grades who rarely strays from his porch.
"Do you go out a lot?" Grant, his lawyer, asked the teen.
"It's safer in the house," E.H. replied.
"Do you have bad dreams?"
"The police station and the psychiatric hospital."
City attorneys argued the boy's troubles stem from a chaotic family life that has included occasional contact with the police as well as a fire that killed five relatives. They also presented a psychologist, who said his arrest had not caused permanent psychological damage.
Experts, such as Ceci, say children can be resilient and rebound from the most traumatic events.
But R.G. hasn't, according to his lawyer, Susler. She says the boy, now 14, wet his bed for years, chewed his fingernails until they were bloody and infected, banged his head on the floor and refused to sleep in his own bed, curling up in the hallway outside his parents' room.
R.G.'s family was affected, too, she says, citing stress from the boy's arrest as contributing to his parents' divorce.
R.G. is a freshman in a therapeutic high school who takes antidepressants and receives psychological counseling, Susler says.
Because his mother didn't want to expose him to a trial, his family settled out of court for $2 million this year -- a sum one alderman said should have been increased fivefold.
Lawyer: 'Systemic' police misconduct
Flint Taylor, R.G.'s lawyer, says even though just two detectives were named, this case showed "systemic misconduct" from the top to the bottom of the police department.
When two tiny grade-school-age boys were brought in for questioning, he says, "No one said, 'Show me how these kids could have done that."'
"No one was ever disciplined for it," Taylor adds. Everyone walked away."
Police declined comment.
E.H.'s family settled for $6.2 million. His grandmother, Rosetta Crawford, told reporters the trial, before being curtailed, had shown her grandson wasn't responsible for Ryan's murder.
"It wasn't about the money," she said, but instead about sending a message, in hopes of preventing police from handling child suspects this way again.
Case inspired changes
The case did inspire changes in the law: Today, kids under age 13 charged with murder or sex crimes must be represented by a lawyer during a custodial interrogation. In addition, Chicago police now require a parent or guardian's presence when kids under age 13 are held for questioning on felony charges.
Illinois also mandates taping of interrogations in homicide cases
These are positive steps that make this a watershed case, says Steve Drizin, director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University and expert on juvenile justice.
"Whether the legacy is strong enough to prevent this from happening again, only time will tell," Drizin says. He pauses, then adds: "I think it could happen again in a heartbeat."
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