Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A3 Newsletter: Vincent Simmons, Leonard Peltier, Non-Unanimous Juries and more


A3 Newsletter, Sept 27, 2017: Continuing the Struggle to Free Political Prisoners

Albert and Robert continue tirelessly traveling around the country and the world, bringing attention to other cases and issues around the criminal "in"justice system here in the USA and in other countries that they visit.   

Last month, they traveled to Washington DC for the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March. Photos from the day are featured above and directly below, taken from the SF Bay View article written by Wanda Sabir, who is shown above with Robert and Albert. The other two photos from the day are of Albert with former political prisoner Laura Whitehorn and one of Robert and Albert with longtime A3 supporter Rebecca Hensley. At the DC march, Albert was interviewed by former political prisoner and Panther Eddie Conway for The Real News Network, which you can watch here.


Morgan Freeman's new show "The Story of Us" will be premiering on the National Geographic Channel at 9pm on October 11. Entitled "The March of Freedom," the show's premiere episode will be featuring our very own Albert Woodfox. Furthermore, Albert is featured in The Story of Us teaser trailer, which you can watch here.  

In November, Albert and Robert will be campaigning in Germany and Belgium with Amnesty International and meeting with activists and politicians.

As racial issues take center stage in the public discourse, they felt it was timely to highlight several of far too many cases, where racial inequality plays a huge role in continued unjust extended incarceration.  

The research and writing of Professor Angela Bell has appeared in several law reviews and mainstream media. Just recently her piece on "non-unanimous jury" decisions in Louisiana was featured in the Washington Post, clearly elucidating just one of the many decisions and policies in the system that is grounded in white supremacy that promotes the adjudication of blacks and whites differently. Professor Bell's article highlights just one of the many issues that Albert and Robert speak on as they travel, along with the cases of other prisoners.  
They hope you'll take the time to read about the current status of Leonard Peltier, as well as a previously fellow Angola inmate, Vincent Simmons. This past month also brought news of an attack on political prisoner Herman Bell. Click here to find out how you can help Herman. 

Finally, there's news that at long last there is an effort to review the conviction of Ruchell Magee who was sentenced to 7 years to Life in August of 1965 and remains in prison.


Albert and Robert are grateful for a chance to live outside the cages they were held in for so long and feel a great urgency to try to help other prisoners that have been stuck in the system for far too long. They feel certain that the supporters who stood with them during the many years of struggle to secure their release will do what they can, as they are, for those who have not yet been as fortunate.

Will the US Supreme Court consider the legitimacy of Louisiana's non-unanimous jury system? Professor Angela A. Allen writes for the Washington Post

(PHOTO: Professor Bell speaks in support of Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on April 17, 2012)

In a recent article for the Washington Post entitled "These jury systems are vestiges of white supremacy," SULC Professor and longtime A3 supporter Angela A. Allen-Bell writes:

These jury systems are largely unnoticed vestiges of white supremacy and oppression in our legal system. The Supreme Court now has the chance to accept a case that could end the use of non-unanimous juries in criminal cases. It should take this chance....

The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision next week on whether to review the conviction of Dale Lambert, a Louisiana man who was found guilty of murder by only 10 of 12 jurors. This is a chance for the court to remove this relic of white supremacy and protect rights guaranteed by the Sixth and 14th amendments.

We must confront the fact that oppression and supremacy are as fixed in our legal system as monuments of Confederate generals are in the ground. Both undermine social progress and speak to a systemic oppression we must fight collectively to remove.


--Read the full Washington Post article here.

--Read our recent interview with Prof. Bell examining the historical context for Lousiana's non-unanimous jury system here

A Visit With Leonard Peltier Following Heart Surgery

 

The International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee has just released an update on elder political prisoner Leonard Peltier, including a report from a visit with him on September 21. Supporter Paulette reports from the visit:

Leonard was pleased that so many people sent him birthday cards and that we had raised over $5,000 in donations for the legal fund. But there is so much more to be raised. He said, "I realize that there are many tragedies from the hurricanes, and we need to take care of one another, but I also don't want to die in prison." My heart dropped. I told him the committee, as well as his supporters, were doing everything to bring him home. It is disheartening for us all that obtaining a measure of justice for him after 40+ years demands so much money.

He reminded me to let folks know how much he appreciates their support and prayers for him. I am always thankful that I am able to spend both good and hard time with him, but it remains so difficult to walk away and hear that door slam behind me not knowing what his next day will bring to him.

As I drove to the airport and during the flight north, I began preparing this letter. Plainly stated, Leonard's recent health scare has shaken us all. Should Leonard succumb while imprisoned, there can be no justice for anyone. His legal team has generated a solid multi-faceted approach which outlines several avenues which may lead to Leonard's release. The formula is prepared, but the attorneys can't do it all pro bono. Our lead attorney, David Frankel, has drastically cut his fees and is imploring assisting counsel to follow suit.


Read the Committee's full statement here.

Donate to Leonard's defense fund here.

  

Spotlighting the Case of Vincent Simmons


Vincent Simmons was a subject in HBO's THE FARM: Life Inside Angola Prison as well as three other films. His 1997 parole hearing, so shocking in its blatant racism, corralled supporters from across the globe. Today Vincent remains in prison after 40 years. The fundraising campaign was created to raise legal funds so that Vincent can receive a hearing, and hopefully a new trial. Because of the nature of the charges this has remained a highly controversial case.

Here is Vincent's story:

On July 28, 1977, Vincent Simmons was convicted of the attempted aggravated rape of twin white girls, Karen and Sharon Sanders, and sentenced to 100 years in prison. He has been at Angola prison for forty years. He was convicted purely on the basis of the flawed and contradictory testimony of the two alleged victims and their cousin, Keith Laborde. There was no physical evidence of any kind against Vincent, in fact no physical evidence that the rapes ever actually occurred. The twins picked Vincent out of a line-up in which he was the only one handcuffed after openly stating that all black men looked alike to them. Vincent has been the subject of three documentary films and has maintained his innocence since his arrest.

There is no physical evidence that the rapes actually happened. The alleged victims waited two weeks to report the alleged rapes. No forensic tests were carried out on the clothing of the alleged victims, Vincent's clothing or the car in which the alleged rapes took place.

The doctor's report did not find any signs of injury on either of the alleged victims and stated that one of the twins was a virgin two weeks after the alleged rapes. The doctor's report was not shown at the trial excerpts from the letter sent from F.P. Bordellon Jr., M.D. to district attorney Mr. J. Eddie Knoll on June 10, 1977, regarding examination of one of the alleged victims in the Vincent Simmons case. "She admits never having had intercourse before this... There was [sic] no bruises on her body. The vaginal examination showed that the hymen was intact and I was unable to insert one examining finger."

Vincent was convicted on the basis of the flawed and contradictory testimonies of the two alleged victims and their male cousin. In the police reports, the twins said that a black man attacked them. They said they did not know his name. In court the twins and their cousin all said the attacker had told them his name before attacking them and that his name was Simmons.

The twins stated that they would not be able to pick their attacker out of a line-up because all black men looked the same to them. They later picked Vincent out of a line-up in which he was the only one handcuffed.

The police investigative reports did not include one single lead pointing to Vincent, yet he was picked off the street and charged with the crime. Two reports by the same police officer written twenty-four hours apart give two completely different locations as the place of arrest.

There is no indication that the police, at any point, had an official interview with Vincent or that he gave any sort of statement. However, when Vincent was arrested and taken into interrogation, a police officer, who was related to Keith Laborde, shot Vincent in the chest, nearly killing him. The officers present stated that Vincent had disarmed one of the officers, said "You will never take me alive," and pulled the trigger, but the gun misfired. They said he continued dry firing and then Officer Laborde shot him. Vincent was never charged with any crime related to this and it was not mentioned in trial. Vincent has maintained from the beginning that the officer's shot him because he would not confess.

The arresting police officers never testified in court.

Not only did the shooting threaten his life, but Vincent was originally charged with two counts of aggravated rape, punishable by death at the time of accusal. Only after the US Supreme Court invalidated the death penalty in Coker v. Georgia, 433 US. 584 on June 29, 1977, did the prosecution quickly amend the charges to aggravated attempted rape.

Even though the state's case at trial were the actual rapes of both of the Sanders sisters.

No pre-trial motions nor investigations by defense counsel were made.

Vincent has several documents of evidence that he was not aware of at trial. Nor was the jury or Vincent's defense counsel aware of this evidence at trial.

Vincent has been trying to win an evidentiary hearing for decades, but no state has ever afforded him one.

On July 21, 2017, a post-conviction was filed at the 12th Judicial District Court. Contained in that application is newly discovered and explosive evidence supporting Vincent's claim of innocence.

All donated funds will go to Vincent's Defense Fund account which is managed by attorney Robert Flores.

To donate, visit the fundraising site.

For more information, visit www.freevincent.com

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