2/19/2007 Newsletter

Contents:

  • Meet with CRA Reps
  • Community Pipeline on Lurking Ordinance
  • Know Your Rights Training
  • "The Exonerated" Performance
  • Good Stuff Happening at the Legislature
  • US Correctional Population at All-Time High
  • Gary Tyler's Lost Decades
  • Mumia Abu-Jamal: Who Protects Whom?

FULL CALENDAR OF UPCOMING EVENTS
Don't let the snow on the ground keep you at home--there is a full calendar of exciting events over the next few weeks.

Meet with CRA Board Representatives
Saturday, March 3 at 1:30 p.m.
Walker Church, 3100 16th Ave S, Minneapolis
The Civilian Review Authority (CRA) was created to investigate complaints of police brutality in Minneapolis. But is the CRA really doing its best to make offending officers accountable? Come to this meeting to ask questions and share your concerns.

Community Pipeline on the Lurking Ordinance
Wednesday, March 7, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Minneapolis Urban League,2100 Plymouth Avenue North, Minneapolis
CUAPB joins several other organizations cosponsoring this community meeting to discuss the repeal of the lurking ordinance.  Minneapolis is one of only four cities in the country to have this ordinance (St. Paul is one of the other four). In the past few years, 100% of people arrested under this ordinance have been African American. Over 90% of these cases were dismissed without prosecution--meaning innocent people spend time in jail, at taxpayer expense. Clearly, this ordinance is selectively applied and it is time for it to go! Come learn about this ordinance, the forces supporting it, our plans for repeal and how you can help.

Know Your Rights Training
Saturday, March 10 at 1:30 p.m.
Walker Church, 3100 16th Ave S, Minneapolis
Do you know your rights when dealing with police? PROTECT YOURSELF! Learn what to say (and not say) to a police officer, your rights during traffic stops, street stops, home visits and other encounters with police. Learn your rights regarding searches, ID cards, what to do if arrested, and more.

"The Exonerated"
March 2-18, Thurdays-Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 2:00 p.m.
Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S 4th Street, Minneapolis

Tickets are $19-21, and can be reserved by calling the Mixed Blood box office at 612-338-6131. (Sunday, Mar. 4 is a pay-what-you-can performance with a minimum payment of $10.)  Post-show discussions will be held after each Sunday performance (Mar. 4, 11 and 18).

"I'm no different from you. I wasn't a street thug, I wasn't trash, I came from a good family, if it happened to me, man, it can happen to anyone." --Kerry Max Cook, who spent 22 years on death row

Frank Theatre is presenting the first local professional production of THE EXONERATED, based on the true stories of six people who spent from 2-22 years on Death Row for crimes they did not commit. Everyday people, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Folks who made the wrong comment to the wrong person.  People who didn't have the resources to navigate the American criminal justice system. Written by Jessica Blank and Eric Jensen, alums of Macalester College, the script is culled from actual interviews, letters, transcripts, case files, and the public record, resulting in a riveting and compelling evening of theatre.  For additional information, call Frank Theatre at (612) 724 3760.


WHAT'S HAPPENING AT THE LEGISLATURE?  GOOD STUFF!
Many who are brutalized by police also face the indignity and inconvenience of arrest on false charges.  One of the most important efforts coming out of this year's state legislative session--spearheaded by Guy Gambill with the Council on Crime and Justice--is a push to seal arrest records not resulting in convictions.  We've supported such measures for quite a while, since just having an arrest on record can stop a person from getting an apartment or job.  Senator Mee Moua, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, is the main mover behind this bill (SF 279) and companion bills (SF 294, SF 685) which deal with expungement after conviction.  If passed, these bills have the potential of unburdening sections of the community that are unfairly turned into second class citizens as a result of unfair and excessive targeting by the criminal justice system.  We urge you to support these important bills.  To read the text of these bills:
SF 279 http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/bin/bldbill.php?bill=S0279.0.html&session=ls85
SF 294 http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/bin/bldbill.php?bill=S0294.0.html&session=ls85
SF 385 http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/bin/bldbill.php?bill=S0685.0.html&session=ls85

The Senate Judiciary Committee will discuss these bills at their meeting tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. in room 112 of the Capitol.  The committee will not take testimony at that meeting but is expected to hold hearings soon and we will let you know when they are scheduled.  In the meantime, if you can attend tomorrow's meeting (and we know this isn't much notice!), great.  Otherwise, feel free to contact Senator Moua at 651-296-5285 or by email at sen.mee.moua@senate.mn to thank her and contact your own state senator to encourage support of these important bills.  To find out who your senator is and how to contact them, go to http://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/Districtfinder.asp


POLICE STATE UPDATE

US Correctional Population at All-Time High
What follows is adapted from a report by local media analyst Jeff Nygaard
http://www.nygaardnotes.org

A Nation In Prison

On November 30th the U.S. Fed News wire service ran a story headlined One in Every 32 Adults Was in a Prison, Jail, on Probation, or on Parole at End of 2005, based on a newly released report from the Sentencing Project.  As many other news services reported, the absolute number of what is called the "U.S. correctional population" has now reached 7 million, which is an all-time record.

Here are a few other unreported facts worth knowing about this report:
*The United States now incarcerates its citizens at a rate 5 to 8 times that of most industrialized nations. The U.S. incarceration rate of 737 per 100,000 people is the highest ever recorded, outpacing the next highest rates of 611 for Russia and 547 for St. Kitts and Nevis. Rates in other Western nations include: United Kingdom ? 148; Canada ? 107; Germany ? 95; and France ? 85.

*African-American males are incarcerated at more than six times the rate of white males, and Hispanic males more than double the rate. Black females are incarcerated at three times the rate of white females and Hispanic females at nearly double the rate.

*On the state level, the lowest rate of incarceration among blacks (851 in Hawaii) is greater than that of the highest white rate (740 in Oklahoma).

*At the same time, jurisdictions that have invested heavily in incarceration have not necessarily produced significant gains in crime control.

The above facts come directly from the Sentencing Project press release on their report, available at  http://www.sentencingproject.org


Gary Tyler's Lost Decades
By BOB HERBERT
OP-ED Columnist
New York Times
February 5, 2007

Destrehan, La.  The term "time warp" could have been coined for this rural town of 11,000 residents that sits beside, and just a little below, the Mississippi River. A remnant of the sugar-plantation era, the region's racially troubled past is always here, seldom spoken about but inescapable, like the murk in the air of a perpetually stalled weather front.

The Harry Hurst Middle School is on the site of the old Destrehan High School, which was the scene of violent protests during the integration period of the 1970s. Local residents have tried to blot out the murder case that made Destrehan High notorious three decades ago, but there's a big problem with that collective effort to forget. The black teenager who was railroaded into prison (and almost into the electric chair) for the murder of a white student in 1974 is still in prison all these many years later. He's middle-aged now, still suffering through a life sentence without any chance for parole in the notorious state penitentiary at Angola.

There is no longer any doubt that the case against the teenager, Gary Tyler, was a travesty. A federal appeals court ruled unequivocally that he did not receive a fair trial. The Louisiana Board of Pardons issued rulings on three occasions that would have allowed Mr. Tyler to be freed.

But this is the South and Mr. Tyler was a black person convicted of killing a white. It didn't matter that the case was built on bogus evidence and coerced witnesses, or that the trial was, in the words of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, "fundamentally unfair." Mr. Tyler was never given a new trial and the pardon board recommendations were rejected by two governors.

(Lurking in the background as the case unfolded was David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan who was very active politically in Louisiana and always ready to inject his poison into the public issues of the day. If you drive around Destrehan and nearby communities today you will still see some of the old blue-and-white campaign signs for Duke.)

Mr. Tyler, a sophomore at Destrehan High, was on a bus filled with black students that was attacked on Oct. 7, 1974, by a white mob enraged over school integration. A shot was fired and a 13-year-old white boy standing outside the bus collapsed, mortally wounded. Mr. Tyler was arrested on a charge of disturbing the peace after he talked back to a sheriff's deputy.

Although the bus and its passengers were searched and no weapon was found, Mr. Tyler was taken into custody, savagely beaten and accused of committing the murder. A gun was "found" during a subsequent search of the bus and witnesses were rounded up to testify against Mr. Tyler. It turned out that the gun (which has since disappeared) had been stolen from a firing range used by officers of the sheriff's department. All of the witnesses who fingered Mr. Tyler would eventually recant, saying they had been terrorized into testifying falsely by the authorities.

Mr. Tyler was represented at trial by a white sole practitioner who had never handled a murder case, much less a death penalty case. He kept his meetings with his client to a minimum and would later complain about the money he was paid.

The outcome was predictable. Mr. Tyler was convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair by an all-white jury. At 17, he was the youngest prisoner on death row in the country. He almost certainly would have been executed if the U.S. Supreme Court had not ruled the Louisiana death penalty unconstitutional.

The Fifth Circuit ruling in 1981 said that an improper charge to the jury had denied Mr. Tyler the presumption of innocence at his trial. "It is folly," the court said, "to argue that the erroneous charge did not affect the central determination of guilt or innocence."

What was folly was any expectation that Mr. Tyler would be treated fairly at any point. Despite the appeals court ruling, he was denied a new trial on a technicality.

Now consider this, because it will tell you all you need to know about racial justice in the South. A 19-year-old black man named Richard Dunn was shotgunned to death as he was heading home from a benefit dance in support of Mr. Tyler at Southern University in New Orleans in 1976. A white man, Anthony Mart, was arrested and convicted of shooting Mr. Dunn from a passing car.

Gary Tyler's current attorney, Mary Howell, ruefully explained what happened to Mr. Mart for the cold-blooded killing of a black stranger: He was sent to prison for life but was pardoned and freed after serving about 10 years.
___________________________________________________________
WHO PROTECTS WHOM?
Mumia Abu-Jamal
February 4, 2007

[Ed. Note: This column reminded us of the multiple complaints we have handled in which obviously pregnant women were beaten, pepper sprayed, Tazed and otherwise abused by local police.  Yes, folks, it does happen here.]
 
A woman is stopped for a traffic violation.
 
She tearfully explains that she is pregnant, she is bleeding, and she begs -- at least a dozen times -- to be taken to the hospital.
 
She might as well have been talking to the wall.
 
The cops either ignore her, or make light of her plight. They respond, when they bother to do so, with replies like, "What do you want *us* to do about it?"
 
She was jailed -- and not taken to a hospital despite her pleas.
 
Several days later, upon her release, she gives birth to a premature baby, who breathes precisely for one minute -- and dies.
 
When I heard this story, I thought of the motto, 'protect and serve' -- and wondered, 'protect who?' -- 'serve who?'
 
A young pregnant woman, bleeding -- begging -- and it means nothing. Less than nothing. One of the cops, a female, replied, "How is that *my* problem?"
 
Will these cops, who saw a pregnant woman suffering -- bleeding! -- ever face reckless endangerment charges? Nope. Were they fired? Nope. Will they be? I doubt it.
 
The most that may happen -- I say *may* -- is the woman may file a civil suit -- and some years later, she may even win (unless a judge decides the cops are immune from suit, as is often the case).
 
But it will mean nothing -- for a baby is dead, forever.
 
No judge on earth can restore that infant's spark of life.
 
That all of this was caught on video, and was hot news (until the tornadoes ripped through Florida), tells us that the cops weren't terribly concerned about it.
 
It was just the job -- hospitals might've involved too much paperwork -- or perhaps overtime.
 
I've named no city: nor the woman. I haven't had to.
 
For it could've been anywhere -- and almost anyone.
 
It's not like these were mutually exclusive choices -- take her to the hospital, *or* take her to jail. Observers know that when folks are injured, they are often carted to the hospital, where facilities exist to insure security.
 
That didn't happen -- because those two people holding her hostage didn't want to.
 
It's really that simple.
 
It happened in early 21st Century America, and shows us vividly what's going on these days.
 
'Protect and serve?' Protect who? Serve who?
 
Not her. Not that baby.
___________________________________________________________
Communities United Against Police Brutality
3100 16th Avenue S
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)


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