Criminal Justice :

5-26-12 march

WESPAC Foundation is concerned about the criminal justice system. We work in solidarity with other groups and organizations in Westchester County to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws, to eliminate racial profiling, and to address the structural and institutional biases inherent in our criminal justice system. We stand to permanently remove the death penalty as a legal option for the state, and we seek to significantly reduce the prison populations by working towards a more benevolent economic system that guarantees meaningful jobs and training at a living wage to all people.

WESPAC Foundation is concerned about the criminal justice system.  We work in solidarity with other groups and organizations in Westchester County to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws, to eliminate racial profiling, and to address the structural and institutional biases inherent in our criminal justice system. We stand to permanently remove the death penalty as a legal option for the state, and we seek to significantly reduce the prison populations by working towards a more benevolent economic system that guarantees meaningful jobs and training at a living wage to all people.5-26-12 march

The rally took place Feb. 28, 2013:

Phyllis will also report back in Mapleton on Monday, Feb. 25th:


Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers Reject CDCR Proposal
Strike Continues

 Press Contact:    Isaac Ontiveros
 Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
 Office: 510 444 0484

California—This afternoon leaders of the Pelican Bay hunger strike unanimously rejected a proposal to end the strike from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). In response to the prisoners’ five, straightforward demands, CDCR distributed a vaguely worded document stating that it would, "effect a comprehensive assessment of its existing policy and procedure" about the secure housing units (SHUs).  The document gave no indication if any changes would be made at all.

While the CDCR has claimed that there is no medical crisis, mediators report that the principal negotiators have lost 25-35 pounds each and have underlying medical conditions of concern. Despite promises from the federal Receiver overseeing CDCR, no one has received salt tablets or multiple vitamins. 

The hunger strike is now in its third week and shows no signs of weakening.  In fact, the settlement document distributed last night to all hunger strikers at Pelican Bay prison, resulted in some people who had gone off the strike to resume refusing food.  Hundreds of prisoners at Pelican Bay remain on strike, with thousands more participating throughout California's 33 prisons.  Advocates and strike leaders dismiss the false claims that the strike is being orchestrated by prison gangs.

International solidarity with the striking prisoners also continues to mount with demonstrations and messages emerging from the US, Canada, Turkey and Australia. According to mediation team member Laura Magnani, “From day one, the CDCR has demonstrated its inability to resolve this situation. We call on Gov. Brown to step in and negotiate in good faith to bring this situation to a just resolution.”  Strike supporters plan to flood the Governor’s offices with phone calls and emails, echoing the strikers’ demands.

“Given how basic the striker’s demands are, it is immoral that the CDCR would insult these men with such poor faith proposals,” stated mediator, Dorsey Nunn.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

Questions and comments may be sent to [email protected]

Via Kiilu Nyasha

Greetings All:

I got a letter today from Yogi Bear, Hugo Antonio Lyons Pinell.  As 
most of you know, Yogi has been tortured in the Pelican Bay SHU since 
1990 and in other California gulags since the early 1970s.  He began 
his incarceration in 1964 at age 19.  He has joined the hunger strike 
and writes:

"A hunger strike has been in effect since Julu 1 and I've been with 
it, altho is very hard to know what's going on?  On July 1, one 
station up here announced the hunger strike, but nothing since and I 
don't know if prisoners have gotten with staff and what's happening, 
etc. But I have to get with it because it's for a great cause and if 
good changes come about, I could get a break too.  At this point, a 
move to a mainline would be great being that my keepers are 
determined to keep me until I die.  On a mainline, we could have 
contact visits again!  It's been too long since I've touched my Mom 
and all of my loved ones.

When or since I met you in 1973, I've been on no contact visits 
status.  They kept telling me I'd get my contact visits back.  But 
they sent me to a new SHU in 1986, and everybody is on no contact 
visits status in these SHUs.

"It's been a really long time since I particpated in a hunger strike, 
but I was much younger, stronger and ready.  I wasn't prepared for a 
hunger strike, so i don't know how well or how long I can hold on, 
but I had to participate.  I don't have the options so many have used 
to get out of prison ofr the SHU.  The counselor tells me I do have 
those options, but I tell thim I don't because I can't use them.  I'm 
into growing, evolving and building, not into negative, 
self-destructive behavior.  I don't even think in terms of doing or 
saying something wrong to better my situation, for that would strike 
against everyting I live for; freedom, a New Man and that New 
World.  So, Sis, this hunger strike provides me with an opportunity 
for better changes while also in concert and support of all those 
willing to risk their precious and valuable health.

"I'm feeling okay, ut I wish I knew what's going on.  Well, in 
time.  I'm not working out, physically, but I'm drinking a lot of 
water, get my walking, meditation, my studying and mind travels 
:)!  I send my best to everyone.  Take good care, Sis…."

I had already written Yogi a long letter and enclosed a report on the 
hunger strike so he would know how much it grew and expanded, and how 
much support he and the others have.  But I hope you will join me in 
keeping these prisoners company during this extremely difficult 
period.  Please write to them.
If you need others' addresses, I may have them.  Here's Yogi's address:

Hugo L.A. Pinell
A88401 D3-221
P.O. Box 7500
Crescent City, Ca.  95531-7500

Also, you can learn more about his case on the (not updated) 
website:  <>

Peace, power and love,


"For the Liberation of Mumia Abu Jamal!"


Note: Following is an interview with Suzanne Ross, International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, William E. Bachmann, US Labor activist involved in Mumia's defense, and Omowale Rupert-em-Hru, of the Pan-Afrikan Society, which is part of the Free Mumia Abu- Jamal campaign in Great Britain. The interview was published in the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples (ILC) Newsletter, Issue No. 36 (No. 405 Old Series) on May 27, 2011.



In November the ILC, a broad regroupment of political and trade union organizations, came together in Algiers for the Open World Conference Against War and Exploitation. Fifty-two countries, including the United States, were represented at the conference. Suzanne Ross, representing the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, addressed the plenary on the case of Mumia.



The interview below was conducted in Paris on May 2, 2011, almost six months after the conference. It is a follow up of the report that Suzanne Ross presented in Algiers. It accompanied a meeting the three Mumia activists had with Daniel Gluckstein, Co-coordinator of the International Liaison Committee, and Gerard Bauvert, Director, International Committee Against Repression.



* * * * *



"We Absolutely Will Not Stop Until Mumia Is Free!"



Question: The Mumia question was one of the cases at the center of our conference against war and exploitation in Algiers. The comrades who came to the conference in Algiers in November would like to know about the important recent developments in Mumia's case in these past almost six months. Could you give these comrades as well as all the other labor activists who are concerned about this issue some concrete and precise information about what these developments are?


Suzanne Ross: Okay. But first I want to communicate to our dear, dear comrades around the world who in Algiers showed such love and solidarity for Mumia. I was quite overwhelmed by the strong feelings for Mumia that people expressed. "We're so happy to hear about Mumia after these years where we haven't heard much", "How is he?" "Please give him my love". It was very moving and also very encouraging to experience that.



I reported on that to my comrades in the US and also to Mumia. So we owe all those people the opportunity to have up-to-date information of what has transpired since the conference.



The comrades will recall that that we were very concerned at the time about the possible execution of Mumia since the prosecutor and the State of Pennsylvania, where Mumia comes from and where he is situated on Death Row, were aggressively demanding that the question of Mumia's execution be reconsidered more seriously. That had not happened since 2001, when a federal judge ruled that Mumia should be sentenced to life in prison without any chance of parole rather than to an execution because of faulty instructions to the jury in the original trial.



We immediately became very concerned given the move toward the right in the United States, and especially with a right wing Supreme Court. We took it extremely seriously and spent from January 2010 until just this last month fighting this process, both in the courts and in the streets.



I am happy to report that there we had something like a legal victory in the sense that the courts had to admit that there was no new basis for reinstating the death penalty; that, in fact, the 2001 decision of life in prison without parole was affirmed. The original 2001 decision was made on a very technical basis and not given out of any humane consideration, or any consideration for a profound sense of justice. And still where it now stands legally, even if this decision is not overturned on appeal, is that Mumia will never get out.



So, it's not a decision that we ever wanted, in the sense of a final decision. The final decision has to be Mumia's freedom. And I repeat that: the final solution of the struggle – we do not stop, let me repeat this, we absolutely will not stop until Mumia is free, in fact until all political prisoners are free.



But the struggle for Mumia does not end once they remove the immediate threat of execution, and we want friends of Mumia around the world to know that, that we will fight to the very end on this issue. Mumia has never fought for life imprisonment without parole; that's not what he is fighting for. In fact, just to report, the lawyer who called him, to give him the news, — you know, the lawyer of course was very happy. She said Mumia didn't react that strongly. She heard him, she spoke to him and he said very little. Okay, how could Mumia be happy after thirty years? "Oh, yes, life in prison without parole? That's great."



No, Mumia was not ecstatically happy, we're not ecstatically happy. We are glad the enemy was defeated and had a set-back; they could not move ahead with execution. That doesn't mean they won't try again. They have the legal possibility of trying again. But this was definitely a set back for them. This defeat for the enemy means that Mumia no longer has an immediate threat of execution.


The other big thing I want people around the world to know is Mumia's legal is now under the leadership of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The two keys lawyers, Christina Swarns and Judith Ritter, were both involved before but they are now in charge. This is the organization (now completely separate from the NAACP, a more centrist organization not focused primarily on the legal front) that led the struggle for racial justice in the courts in the 1950's during the Civil Rights Movement. It won the landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education that desegregated (officially at least) the schools. The Legal Defense Fund specializes in legal struggles on the issue of race.



They have taken on this case precisely because they feel it is very much defined by race and racial issues. I don't mean personal prejudice alone but rather powerful racial institutional forces in the legal system. In Mumia's case, this included the original judge who is known infamously for having said, outside his own courtroom but in an adjacent courtroom, "I'm going to help them fry the nigger" — to the selection of a jury that was extremely biased, and selected purposefully to be disproportionately white — to a police force that is known for its racism which has fought tooth and nail for Mumia's execution.


The NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund's moving into this case is wonderful. It's a big victory for Mumia. After nearly 30 years of this case, the most prestigious and most effective civil rights legal institute takes on his case in a major way, not just participating, but leading the team.

Those are the two major things that have happened since the conference, the Third Circuit ruling and the new legal team.


Question: You spoke about cruel and inhumane treatment in the prisons at the very moment when we hear about the US government speaking about democracy and human rights all over the world. Can you explain to our readers, even after the end of the immediate threat of execution, what are the conditions of Mumia's imprisonment?


SR: Mumia has been in prison and on Death Row for almost thirty years. He was twenty-seven years old when his case came up. He was a widely respected radio journalist, known as a radical critic of the corruption, racism, and brutality of city officials and government, brilliant, a peace-maker with children, a very involved and loving father. He was even known outside of Philadelphia because he was head of communications for the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia and as an emerging leader traveled for the Party. He wrote, he spoke. He has the kind of voice that actors have; people stop to listen to him. Also, he is a very clear thinker.

The prosecutor's office and the police took a charismatic young Black leader like that and presented him as a monster. They created a monster, a cop- killer, someone who wanting nothing more than to kill a cop. In a recent film the prosecution, police, and even the mayor of Philadelphia supported, Mumia was portrayed as someone who dreamed of killing cops, who was obsessed with fantasies of killing cops, almost from his mother's womb, someone who was born that way.



And that is how they justify denying Mumia all human rights. He's been living in this isolated cell that is the size of a small bathroom, he can make maybe two phone calls a week, and he is allowed out of his cell for an hour a day on weekdays, when it's not raining or snowing, to exercise within a small caged area with one other prisoner. He can never touch another human being, his wife, his children, his grandchildren: he sees them all behind the plexiglas barrier.



Until recently, every visit he went to, he had to undergo not only a strip search, but also to come in shackles, his legs shackled, his hands hand-cuffed. It was not until Archbishop Tutu came to visit him and protested that this man is no threat behind glass and that this is just too degrading to a human being, that the shackles were removed and he comes to his visits now without the shackles and the handcuffs.



But the lack of freedom and the intrusiveness is impossible for us to imagine. And this man, in the face of all that indignity, in the face of that brutality, maintains a spirit of humanity. He shows respect for all human beings and remains concerned about others, whether in the prison or death row area he is at or 7,000 miles away from where he is. I mean, you know from his articles and when people visit him, the first thing he asks is "How are you?", and he wants to know how you are. He asks about all the conditions people he knows or knows about are facing.


So this inhumane capitalist society, talking about human rights, trying to justify isolating or invading any country in the world it needs to defeat, in the name of defending the people's "human rights". Please! There is nothing that any country could do that would match – I mean, I should never say "never", but I can't imagine any country that would violate the human rights of people all over the world more than the United States.



I can't imagine any country whose violation of human rights — and not that there aren't violations of human rights in too many other parts of the world — would ever, ever justify the US having the right to say something about it. The US has no right to speak on the issue of human rights when it does what it does to its own citizens like Mumia Abu Jamal, the other political prisoners, and all those in prison — and to people around the world with its invasions, occupations, wars, and the constant stealing of the world's resources.



As far as I'm concerned there is no reason to ever take seriously what Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton or Obama say about human rights anywhere in the world. The US hasn't earned the right to be taken seriously about its supposed concern for human rights. It has stood for the very opposite, the denial and trampling of human rights whenever US economic, political, or military concerns are at stake.



Question: You explained in Algiers that Mumia is still alive today because of international solidarity. Maybe you could develop this question?


SR: Yes, Mumia is still alive today because of international solidarity, because of millions of people around the world, including in the US of course, who have cared about what he represents, who he is, and how much is at stake in his survival and liberation from prison. Those people have fought for him to be alive and free and have succeeded in keeping alive, though not yet free.



The US government wanted to and still wants to kill him. Every arm of the government has participated in this conspiracy: the police hierarchy in Philadelphia, the courts all the way to the Supreme Court, and the Department of Justice and President of the US in refusing to review the case. Additionally, the media has played a very large role in propagating the lies created by the police and prosecution. This despite the fact that it is obvious to millions of people that there has been a conspiracy to kill Mumia so as to silence him.



Yes, the only reason Mumia is alive today and they haven't been able to kill him is because people around the world have made it clear that they will not accept that. And the US government and the powers know that they are being watched by the whole world. This last time, when they had the hearing in the Pennsylvania court, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, the courtroom was packed with supporters, including representatives from Germany and France.



The streets outside the court room were covered with loud and determined supporters, even in the face of dozens of police and dogs in the area, especially at the entrance to the court, meant to intimidate and discourage people from attending the hearing. And almost three decades after this case began there were demonstrations in many parts of the world. Messages came in saying,"We're with you", "We stand with you". "Free Mumia".



Immediately after that was the strong solidarity the Algiers Conference represented by providing the opportunity for the body to hear about Mumia's situation, and thus reinvigorating the support of those present. That kind of international solidarity has kept Mumia alive.

We end by calling on the world progressive forces to continue to be vigilant and watchful about Mumia, the other political prisoners in the US dungeons, and the 2.3 million person prison population in the "land of the free". We extend our reciprocal solidarity for the critical people's struggles going on in so many different parts of the world at this moment, but perhaps most dramatically in North Africa.

A group called the Friends of Kevin Powell Support Committee is assisting Kevin's family (mom Sandy and brother Peter).  There will be things the community can do down the road but there is an immediate need. This Friday, July 1st Kevin will appear in Judge Lamont court for sentencing.  Even though an appeal is in motion, the trial  judge has to set the sentence. The family was advised that it will be good to have a number of supporters in the court room.  If you can come, it will show the judge that Kevin does have community support.  Here are the details:

  Date:  July 1, 2011   Time:  9:30 AM
Place: Albany County Court, 6 Lodge Street, Albany,
Courtroom: Judge Lamont's court on the 2nd floor
Parking: meters on Pearl, Lodge, Pine or the Crown Plaza garage
This is not a protest. What Kevin needs is citizen support–people  quietly sitting in the courtroom.  Even if you don't know Kevin or his family, come beause you want to make a showing for justice.  We don't expect the media, but if they attend, we should not talk to them but direct them to Kevin's attorney, Terry Kindlon.

On June 26, 2010 Kevin Powell and his girlfriend Abbey stopped at Wolfe’s Beir Garden to view the remaining time of the Soccer World Cup game of US vs. Ghana.   The establishment had created an outdoor festival atmosphere with monitors mounted throughout the designated multiple street block party area.   Kevin, an African American, West Point Graduate and Abbey, his Caucasian girlfriend, arrived to the event nearing the end of the match.  The crowd of wall to wall U.S .Soccer enthusiasts had been consuming alcohol out of the plastic souvenir beer mug provided with the event’s admission for several hours.

The crowd remained enthusiastic and patriotic throughout the game. Kevin and Abbey felt the crowd’s demeanor change when it became apparent that the U.S. was going to be defeated by Ghana.  Racial slurs and murmurs began intermittently and became more fluid as the US efforts to win were unproductive.  The couple ignored the murmurs but choose to leave when the upset of the crowd became more pronounced. 

While the two were walking to their car, an unknown white man threw his plastic beer mug at the couple and yelled “[email protected]$%$ing Niggers!”  The mug smashed around Kevin and Abbey’s sandaled feet. Reacting to his concern for Abbey’s safety, Kevin went over to the young man (Kyle, a law student) and “got in his face” yelling at him.  Kevin’s intention was to “punk the guy” to send a message that Kyle had crossed the line.   No physical harm occurred.  Abbey grabbed Kevin’s arm and said, “Let’s get out of here.”

As they walked away a group of 8-10 White people, about 15-20 feet behind, began to follow Kevin and Abbey, yelling threats, racial slurs and remarks and saying Kevin had broke the guy’s nose.  As they picked up their walking speed, so did the crowd. Kevin and Abbey sped up to escape the crowd, but they kept pace. When Abbey couldn’t keep up any longer, she told Kevin, “Go on” because it was clear they were after him and not her.  When Kevin couldn’t distance himself from the crowd, he attempted to create a diversion by throwing his plastic beer mug over his shoulder – without turning  around .  He thought the mug would smash on the pavement the way Kyle’s had.  Unfortunately, the mug hit someone In the crowd (Karen).  She sustained an injury to her forehead and fell to the ground. 

 Some of the crowd dropped back to help Karen and called the police. Others kept pursuing Kevin.  He was unaware that she had been hit because he was focused on trying  to get away from the crowd. When he was at the end of the street, he turned onto the railroad tracks where the police, guns drawn and dogs in tow, arrested him.  Because of injuries sustained to his face, chest and thumb at the hands of the police Kevin insisted and received medical treatment.  It should be noted that he was not charged with resisting arrest.

As a result of Karen’s  4 inch head wound, Kevin was charged with 2 felonies, with a range of 2-25 years state prison time.  No other person was charged.  Despite efforts to have the charges reduced or dropped, Kevin stood trial on both counts in March 2011. During the trial, Karen, whose injury was barely visible, testified that on that day she was on medication for depression which when combined with alcohol affected her judgment.   The members of the crowd, four of which had prior DWIs all stated the exact same conflicting statement from the law student Kyle’s statement.  Prior to the summation of the trial, the Defense was granted submission of a lower charge with a minimum of 2 years and a maximum of 7 years.  Kevin was found guilty on the lesser charge. He was taken to jail from the courtroom.  After spending 2 weeks incarcerated, he was granted bail and is currently out on bail appending appeal.  

Kevin needs your help.

You ask: How does this happen in 2011 and in Albany?  Please read the details on the reverse side and learn how the actions by 2 Albany County Assistance District Attorneys, the Albany Police, and the Judge and Jury has and will change Kevin Powell’s life, a Veteran, a former U.S. Congressional Paige, and currently a Military Defense Contractor Advisor.


The System and the Process

·         Arraignment

Following his arrest, Kevin was remanded to the Albany City Jail and appeared the next day in Albany City Court.  The judge initially set bail at $5,000 but, when Karen’s sister broke into the courtroom yelling that her sister was disfigured (evidenced by Karen’s bandaged forehead), the judge raised the bail to $30,000.

·         The Charges

Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Bruce Leonard set the charges in Kevin’s case as one count of 1st Degree Assault and one count of 2nd Degree Assault.  Both of these are categorized as violent felonies and carry mandatory state prison sentences.  Prior to trial, Karen and her family were in frequent contact with the Assistant DA’s office demanding harsh punishment.  She was referred to as an “active victim” and this impacted the charges that were set.  Kevin was not accused by the law student, nor was he charged with anything, including resisting arrest, by the police.  These two charges both stemmed from Karen. The prosecution assumed guilt without investigating both sides of the case to gather facts.


Kevin, as the defendant was not allowed to advocate with the DA’s office, except through his attorney.  The ADA  later offered a plea bargain of 4 years of state prison, which Kevin ‘s attorney declined  because the case was over charged.   This declination forced Kevin to go to trial.  The ADA set up the case to guarantee a guilty outcome.  Much harsher cases (i.e. intentional stabbings) were charged with less.  Later in the case, ADA Leonard was fired because he withheld evidence in another case that proved the defendant (a Black male) was innocent.  However no one reviewed his cases to see if this was a pattern of treatment of Black defendants.  ADA Leonard was replaced by ADA Brian Conley.  Kevin was not accused by the law student, nor was he charged with anything, including resisting arrest, by the police.


The Trial

Kevin’s case went to trial March 25, 2011.   There were two jurors a female and a male who appeared to be African-American, both young.  The male was very young. Based on consistent inaccuracies that were all reported in the same manner, it was clear that several of the witnesses for the prosecution, collaborated on their stories and lied.  For example, one of the female witnesses testified that Kevin reared back and threw the mug  at Karen like a baseball.  Upon cross examination she admitted that she didn’t know anything about baseball. She also was unable to identify Kevin as the person who threw the mug.   All of the witnesses (all white) testified that there weren’t any racial comments heard at the event (and they did not hear the law student make a racial remark; a moot point since he admitted to making the remark).


 Karen testified that Kevin was beating Kyle up and had him pinned to the car and she (a 5’2ish, slightly built woman) placed herself between Kevin and the law student and broke up the fight. This was the ADA ‘s claim as to Kevin’s motivation for targeting her with the mug.   The law student admitted that he did in fact say something inappropriate and that Kevin did not hit him, nor did Karen place herself between them to break up the “fight”.  

Karen and  the Albany Medical Center ER doctor admitted that he altered the medical report (as Karen requested this) to down play the fact that she was highly intoxicated and on anti-depressant medication when she presented at the ER.  She also was allowed at the trial to testify that she sustained loss of smell and taste as a result of the injury but no medical proof was offered to verify her assertions.  During the trial, ADA Conely received electronic texting guidance from the fired ADA Leonard on how to try the case.  Leonard was later dismissed from his new law firm for his actions.

·         The Trial Continued

The trial lasted for 5 days. However due to a predicted snow storm, the jury did not report on Friday, March 29th.  They heard final arguments on Monday.  It was very late in the day (after 5:00) when they received jury instructions from the judge. The judge did allow  the jury to consider the lesser charge of Assault in the 3rd degree.   However, the instructions were read to them and took more than an hour. They were not allowed to take notes.   The jury, anxious to go home, returned a verdict of guilty for Assault in the 2nd degree (unintentional) which carries a mandatory 2-7 year sentence.  He will appear before this judge on June 24th to learn his sentence.

·         The Appeal

Kevin’s attorney is preparing an appeal and he is out on bail pending the results of the appeal. 

The Impact of Race

Race clearly was a significant part of this case and it is clear that our society still has not comes to grips with how to recognize it or how to have reasonable conversations about race.  Listed below are some of the issues that support this assertion and have had a negative impact on this case:

·         While Kevin knew to stay clear of certain areas due to gang activity and excessive crime, he w as not aware this venue was also on the list of places to avoid.  When Albany residents (both Black and White) learned of this story, their reactions are, what was he doing down there, especially with a white woman?  Your family member too might innocently believe he/she is free to go anywhere they want.

·         Although Kevin heard racial comments while under the viewing tent, he ignored them because growing up in Bethlehem; he was use to that as being part of the background noise on occasion.  He became alarmed when it was clear that Ghana was winning the match and negative racial comments were becoming less random.

·         The law student used a racial insult when he threw the cup directly at Kevin’s feet. It wasn’t directed at anyone else in the crowd.

·         The all-White crowd assumed that Kevin was the instigator, the aggressor and in the wrong and that the law student needed to be rescued.

·         Kevin was depicted as the aggressor despite the fact that every witness stated that he was always walking away. 

·         The police used excessive aggression in responding by approaching Kevin who was unarmed with guns drawn and dogs.  They assumed he was wrong and dangerous and they did not investigate to find out what happened from both sides of the story.  In fact when Abbey, the only witness to the whole event, attempted to give the police a statement they wouldn’t accept it.

·         The witness statements taken by the police all describe Kevin in the same way using the same terminology.  He was described as the “big Black guy,” despite the fact that some of the men in the group were his size or larger.

·         The ADA set up the charges to guarantee a felony conviction without the facts.  This same ADA had withheld evidence that would have been favorable to another Black male defendant. When this was discovered by the defense attorney’s firm he was fired from the DA’s office but continued to advise ADA Conley on this case.

·         His other cases should have been reviewed to determine if race was a factor in charging or prosecuting those cases.

·         The jury was made up of 13 jurors, 2 of which were Black and young and one woman who looked to be of Middle Eastern descent.  Based on age, race and gender, this was not a jury of Kevin’s peers.

·         The defense attorney was reluctant to bring up the racial aspects of the case because of the historical reaction of predominantly White juries, which is to feel they are being called racists, or negative reactions to the “race card” being “played.” There are plenty of times when   race is a legitimate factor and is not a “card” to be “played.”

The white ruling class strategy since the end of the ruthless reign of Frank Rizzo, as former chief of police
and then mayor of Philadelphia, is to replace white faces with black faces and to support and prop up such
black faces to carry out the bidding of that power elite without regard to the continued oppression of the
black working class of the city of Philadelphia. This phenomenon in Africa politics is called ‘Neo-
Colonialism,’ that is replacing white faces with black faces to keep the masses of blacks in their place and
to maximize profits for the multi national business community.
In Phildelphia, enter its first black Mayor, first black Police Chief and now the first black District Attorney.
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell describes District Attorney Seth Williams, as lawyer of
courage, intelligence and likeability. In other words, Governor Rendell sees DA Seth Williams as a ‘good
As a backdrop, we must remember the 26th anniversary of tragic events in the City of Brotherly Love. At
that time, the power elite attempted to destroy the MOVE organization with Wilson Goode, Philadelphia’s
first black mayor in office. In similar terms to Rendell’s description of Seth Williams, Goode was
described as a likeable, intelligent black man. Nevertheless, Goode did the unthinkable for his “masters”.
On May 13, 1985, he gave the order to the police to drop a bomb on the MOVE house on Osage Avenue
that killed eleven people: men women and children and destroyed an entire Black neighborhood…
In an article in New York Times Magazine, Lynne Abraham, Williams’s predecessor was called “tough on
crime” and “America’s deadliest DA” for her pursuit of the death penalty in capital cases. That article
never mentioned the innocent people who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death during her
tenure, who later had their convictions overturned after spending years on death row. One example is
Harold Wilson, a black man convicted of a triple homicide. Harold Wilson spent 16 years on death row,
until he was exonerated.
Even under the police state conditions imposed by Frank Rizzo, DA Abraham was unable to affect the legal
lynching of Mumia Abu-Jamal, prize winning journalist, called the “Voice of the Voiceless”. During the
reign of terror in Philadelphia under Frank Rizzo, Mumia was framed for killing police officer Daniel
Faulkner on a Philadelphia street in December 1981. Mumia was ultimately convicted and sentenced to die
in 1995. Since 1982 Mumia has languished in a cell on death row and fortunately, as a result of a series of
appeals, Lynn Abraham was unable to see the legal lynching carried out.
The credit for preventing this miscarriage of justice goes to the people of Philadelphia, other cities, towns,
villages and folk in the United States and around the world who rose up in protest.
Enter stage right: Seth Williams who runs for DA of Philadelphia on a platform where he promised to seek
the death penalty for Mumia Abu-Jamal and prosecute his execution. Of course, that stand gained
Williams the immediate support of the Fraternal Order of Police and big business. Stunningly, civil rights
organizations, such as Philadelphia chapter NAACP jumped aboard. Adding to the circus, Tigre Hill, a
local black filmmaker, produced a documentary film entitled “Barrel of a Gun” whose ridiculous premise
was that ever since he was a fifteen year old youth Mumia harbored a desire to kill a police officer.
Last month when the Third Circuit Court of Appeals rendered its decision setting aside Mumia’s death
sentence, District Attorney Williams stated on local television that he received a call from Maureen
Faulkner, widow of slain officer Daniel Faulkner. A willing tool of Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of
Police, she asked DA Williams to appeal the Third Circuit’s unanimous decision to reduce Mumia’s
sentence to life in prison without parole stating that she can only have closure when she knows Mumia is
We watched as “Uncle” Seth Williams half choked saying “I will try Ms Faulkner because most people
don’t know the facts like we do.”
Neither Seth Williams nor Maureen Faulkner “knows” the facts of this case. Many investigative journalists
have discovered that the police began their manipulation of the evidence as soon as they arrived on the
crime scene in order to frame Mumia, who had been a thorn in their side for reporting about police
corruption and persecution of MOVE. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have
issued reports that show that Mumia’s trial was a kangaroo court.
Since Mumia’s conviction and imprisonment in the death house of SCI Green for three decades up to the
election of Philadelphia’s first black District Attorney, we still hear the cries throughout the world of
‘Brick by brick, wall by wall, We gonna free Mumia Abu-Jamal!”
SUNDIATA SADIQ co chair of the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC) 914 672 5807
May 8, 2011

Jalil Muntaqim is a political prisoner being held at Auburn Correctional Facility in NY as a member of the Black Liberation Army and victim of COINTELPRO. Recently denied release on parole for the third time, as well as release by pardon or commutation of sentence, there now appears to be indicators of harassment and retaliation against Jalil inside Auburn CF.


In order to provide some context to current ongoings, it is worth mentioning an incident this past summer in which Jalil was placed in solitary confinement for approximately two weeks on false contraband charges. As a result of this, he also lost his privileges on the Honor Block. He has yet to regain those privileges, despite the false and exaggerated nature of the charges.


Following this, Jalil filed a grievance against the accusing correctional officer, and went through all the required steps to apply to have the case reconsidered. However, he recently received a letter informing him that the case had been dismissed because Jalil had failed to deliver the necessary documents to all 3 relevant parties—the superintendant, the correctional officer, and the attorney general. Despite Jalil’s documented proof that he sent these materials with ample time to all 3 people, none of them have been received to this day. This is not only a case of Jalil’s mail being held for abnormal lengths of time, it is a case of it disappearing altogether—and therefore crucially hindering Jalil’s ability to challenge the charges brought up against him.


In the past few days, there have only been more troubling incidents for Jalil. On Thursday, Dec. 30, shortly after a visit, Jalil was on his way to make a phone call when he was stopped by 4 correctional officers who proceeded to perform a full body search. He was then ordered to give a urine sample, take height and weight measurements, and was taken back to his cell to find it in complete disarray after having been thoroughly searched and upturned. He was then informed that he was being keeplocked for a 72 hour investigation, and was refused any further information throughout the duration of his being locked up.


He was unlocked on Sunday, though he still was unable to find out for what he had been keeplocked, and what this “investigation” pertained to. On Monday morning, January 3, Jalil was on his way to his drafting class in the school house. As he was about to pass the guard at the control station, he was stopped. The guard informed him that he had orders from his superiors not to let Jalil through. He instructed Jalil to return to his block and, again, claimed he had no further information.


Shortly after, Jalil was informed of formal orders from the Deputy Superintendant of Security which state that Jalil is pending investigation and that, in the meantime, he is not permitted to enter the school building and may not participate in Friday religious services. Jalil is both a student and a teacher in the school building at Auburn, and teaches weekly poetry workshops there. As far as he knows, he will not be permitted even to teach this class as long as this order is upheld. Furthermore, as a practicing Muslim, he is very concerned about being denied access to the Juma’a prayer service.


To this day, Jalil has been unable to find out what the investigation against him pertains to, and no charges have been brought up against him. Despite this, he was keeplocked for 72 hours and continues to be denied access to crucial parts of the prison.  This, in context with his being brought up on exaggerated charges and facing crucial mail disappearances, appears to be part of a greater trend toward the harassment of Jalil.


Keep posted, and keep supporting!

Jalil can be reached at:

Anthony Bottom (77a4283)

Auburn CF, PO Box 618

135 State Street

Auburn NY 13042

The Gutted Writ:
On Habeas Corpus

Robert Perkinson
The Nation
January 10, 17, 2011


On a lazy afternoon in February 1961, Wilbert Rideau decided to rob a bank
in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Rideau, a smart but impulsive eighth-grade
dropout from a violent home, had counted on making a quick, clean getaway,
just like the ones he'd seen in the movies, but his plans unraveled during
the heist when a phone call to the bank revealed that the police were closing
in. Rideau took three hostages, commandeered a car and, as darkness fell,
got lost on the back roads outside town. At a bayou crossing the passengers
bolted, and Rideau opened fire. Two survived and vanished into the night,
but the third, a teller named Julia Ferguson, was wounded by the gunfire
and then stabbed to death by Rideau with a hunting knife. A 19-year-old
black man had killed a white woman. In no time, Rideau was under arrest.
Books reviewed

In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance
By Wilbert Rideau
Knopf, 384 pp, 2010

Habeas Corpus: From England to Empire
By Paul D. Halliday
Belknap Press of Harvard University, 512pp, 2010

Outside the jail, a mob formed. "Hang that nigger," a voice called out. But
the officers held their man, confident that justice would be swift and
severe. "It was a good little town back then," a deputy sheriff later
explained to a reporter. "Ever'body did their job. The prosecutors, the law
enforcement…. You didn't have to worry about lynching because they
lynched 'em for you."

The trial, as Rideau recalls in his gripping memoir In the Place of Justice,
was "merely a formality," played out by white attorneys before a white
judge and an all-white jury. "I was the only black in sight, a fly in a bowl of
milk," he writes. The place was Calcasieu Parish, at the height of the
backlash against the civil rights movement, when Louisiana lawmakers had
voted to close down the state's public schools rather than integrate them.
Rideau was guilty of terrible crimes–armed robbery, kidnapping and
homicide–but the district attorney stretched and suppressed evidence to
prove premeditation, a necessary condition for a capital conviction. Julia
Ferguson's stabbing wounds became an attempted beheading, an
embellishment later undermined by pathology photographs. A meandering
oral confession got replaced by a tidier version, written by an FBI agent,
that detailed plans to murder every witness. Physical evidence from the
crime scene disappeared. The verdict was certain: death.

When it reviewed the roughshod proceedings on appeal, the US Supreme
Court assailed Calcasieu Parish's "kangaroo court" and reversed the
conviction. But a second trial before another all-white jury in the same venue
returned the same verdict. At that point the defendant would have run out
of options were it not for an ancient legal instrument that dates back at least
to the sixteenth century, and indirectly to the Magna Carta: habeas corpus.
Literally an order to "have the body" of a detainee brought into court to
assess the legality of his or her confinement, the writ of habeas corpus has
long been celebrated in Anglo-American jurisprudence as "a fundamental
safeguard against unlawful custody" and "a critical check on the executive."
As the writ gained strength in the decades around England's Glorious
Revolution, it helped to vanquish absolutism and lay the groundwork for the
modern era's protections of individual rights. Architects of the early
American Republic regarded habeas corpus as so indispensable that they
enshrined it in the Constitution, before the Bill of Rights, and set an
exceedingly high bar to its suspension, only "when in cases of rebellion or
invasion the public safety may require it." Hailed by William Blackstone as
a "stable bulwark of our liberties," the writ has figured prominently, if
inconsistently, in protecting disfavored minorities and mitigating
repression throughout the common-law world. In the legendary Somersett
case of 1772, a habeas petition led to the abolition of slavery in England,
though not yet its colonies. In 2004 the Supreme Court ruled in Hamdi v.
that the Bush administration's indefinite detention of suspected
terrorists who are US citizens without judicial review was constitutionally
indefensible. Even during the "most challenging and uncertain moments,"
the majority held, "the Great Writ of habeas corpus" remains in force,
allowing citizens, aliens and even designated enemy combatants to challenge
involuntary confinement and demand "due process of law."

In Rideau's case, habeas corpus provided a second entry into federal court,
which ordered yet another trial. Louisiana then sought and won a third death
sentence, but the delays allowed Rideau to survive until 1972, when the
Supreme Court, in Furman v. Georgia, vacated every capital conviction in the
country. After Furman Rideau was resentenced to life imprisonment, and his
court-appointed attorneys bid him farewell, saying they had done everything
they could for him. Sent to Angola, a former slave plantation that by the
1970s was "the most violent prison in America," he was left to rot but
instead built an extraordinary career. He started reading, then writing, and
eventually became a respected, award-winning journalist from behind
Angola's walls. Life magazine called him "the most rehabilitated prisoner in
America," but partly because one of his former hostages lobbied hard for his
perpetual confinement, his repeated appeals for clemency went nowhere.

That is, until habeas corpus again came to his rescue. A literary scholar
named Linda LaBranche took an interest in his case and started poring over
old jury selection records. She found incontrovertible evidence of racial
discrimination in Rideau's trials, and through the flexible, open-ended
provisions then permitted in federal habeas practice, she was able to help
secure Rideau a fourth shot at justice in 2005. This time, ably represented by
a team of pro bono attorneys, Rideau was convicted of manslaughter rather
than premeditated murder. Having already been incarcerated for forty-four
years, a period twenty-three years longer than the maximum sentence for
manslaughter, Rideau went free. He now lives in Baton Rouge, where he has
settled down with LaBranche and a brood of cats. "I'm only here today
because of habeas corpus," he said in a recent interview. "It saved my life."

Rideau's commutation and ultimate release signal the enduring potency of
habeas corpus, but also its practical impotence. What jurists have long
called "the Great Writ of Liberty" did its work, but at an excruciating
pace. That Rideau's case unfolded during a period of relative vitality in
habeas jurisprudence makes his story all the more troubling. Since the
1990s, lawmakers have increasingly circumscribed the writ, imposing rigid
time limits and erecting formidable barriers between state and federal
courts. In today's legal climate, a defendant like Rideau would have almost
no chance of returning to freedom or even escaping execution. Habeas is
becoming "an illusory writ," says George Kendall, one of Rideau's lawyers
and a habeas and death penalty expert. In the war on crime, the war on
terror and the new war against undocumented immigration, the Great Writ
is being gutted.

Paul Halliday's sweeping, scrupulously researched Habeas Corpus: From
England to Empire
examines the capacities and contradictions of this
remarkable legal device. A historian at the University of Virginia and an
occasional contributor to amicus briefs in noteworthy habeas cases, Halliday
dismisses conventional paeans to the writ. Focusing less on landmark
decisions than on thousands of quotidian cases from the sixteenth to the
eighteenth century, recorded on parchment and bound with leather thongs,
he pieces together an ambivalent story with unexpected origins. Rather than
heralding habeas corpus as a "palladium of liberty," he shows how, over the
course of centuries, habeas has extended state power as well as constricted
it, facilitated empire as well as regulated its reach, and how, in periods
of crisis and demagoguery, princes and parliamentarians have muffled the
"sighs of prisoners" despite the venerable writ's promise to hear them.

In early modern England, the judiciary was not a separate branch of
government but an extension of the sovereign's law, Halliday explains. Writs
of habeas corpus, accordingly, functioned less to safeguard individual
liberty–still an embryonic concept–than to regulate the conduct of jailers.
Faced with a polyglot legal landscape in which myriad entities, from
ecclesiastical courts to justices of the peace, had been granted the franchise
of imprisonment, powerful jurists, especially on King's Bench, the common
law court upon which the monarch theoretically sat, used habeas corpus
to review the decisions of lesser magistrates in order to ensure that
his majesty's subjects were lawfully detained. In this way, Halliday argues,
enterprising judges close to the crown made themselves into a superior court
and "put themselves at the heart of the state."

Acting in the name of the sovereign and asserting the authority to "monitor
the work of all other jurisdictions," King's Bench (Queen's Bench when the
monarch was a woman) deployed the writ in an extraordinary array of cases,
reshaping it in the process. Impressed soldiers, asylum inmates, slaves and
prisoners of war sought release through habeas proceedings, sometimes
successfully. Long before the development of modern family law, women
called on the writ to escape abusive husbands, though they had to convince
the court that a man's violence exceeded "the lawful government of his
wife." Forged in common law rather than by statute, writs of habeas corpus,
in the hands of determined judges, could reach almost any detainee, held
under any circumstances, located anywhere under British control.

In the turmoil of the seventeenth century, the judiciary went further. If habeas
began as a "writ of the prerogative by which the king demands account for
his subject," Halliday writes, the justices of King's Bench increasingly
claimed the powers of sovereign prerogative "for their own use, thereby
making themselves the sun that lit the heavens." As the crown was weakened,
judges asserted their independence, with startling results. In the wake of
revolution in the late 1680s–"a period of rampant fear," with war raging in
Ireland and an invasion from Catholic France looming–King's Bench
reviewed the records of 147 detainees charged with treason and other
"wrongs against the state" and ordered "bailed or discharged 80 percent," at
a time when the very survival of the government hung in the balance. What
started as a means of consolidating power had become a check on the

This was the golden age of habeas corpus, Halliday contends. Although
Whiggish histories have depicted the Great Writ as marching ever forward,
spreading freedom as it goes, Halliday shows that by the late eighteenth
century, when Enlightenment revolutions were breaking out on both sides of
the Atlantic, habeas corpus was in retreat. The advancing force was empire.
While in one sense the centralizing authority exercised through habeas
review standardized and thus facilitated the imperial reach of British law,
the writ's promise to apply the law uniformly inevitably faltered before the
inequalities and injustices of colonialism. Habeas corpus "traveled the
globe," Halliday observes, but "suspension followed, like a shadow."

During the American Revolution, Parliament suspended the writ and for
the first time made distinctions between detainees charged with committing
offenses at home and abroad, with the result that "hundreds of American
sailors" captured at sea were denied habeas relief and held indefinitely
"not as POWs, but as traitors or pirates." In South Asia, habeas corpus
arrived with the East India Company, but Halliday shows how statutory
limitations on habeas–a topic too often ignored in the literature, he claims–
"put Indians beyond the bounds of subjecthood" and empowered colonial
governors to define "criminal tribes" and imprison or deport whole groups
without trial. In response to the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s, hundreds
of thousands of Kenyans, including Barack Obama's paternal grandfather,
were rounded up, tortured or placed in concentration camps without judicial
review. Habeas corpus cast no light of liberty there.

Halliday focuses mainly on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, but
his attention to the perennial disappointments of the writ and its invidious
intersections with empire make for fascinating reading in the twenty-first-
century United States. Although habeas corpus is embedded in the
Constitution and has been suspended by Congress only once, during a case
of genuine rebellion in 1863, it faced epic challenges in the wake of
September 11, when the Bush administration asserted unprecedented powers
to unilaterally declare people "enemy combatants" and detain them at will,
indefinitely and without independent review of any kind. Halliday's book
suggests that the White House had ample, if selective and legally dubious,
precedent for its aggressive posture. In response to "detestable conspiracies,"
both real and imagined, various British governments had pioneered all
manner of habeas circumventions: removing prisoners to other countries,
holding them on ships and building special prison camps on remote
islands, where, "surrounded by waves," detainees were kept "beyond law's
gaze." When challenged by the courts, administrators had sought and often
won legislation to strip noncitizens of legal protections, indemnify jailers
"who had done the ugly work" or simply suspend habeas corpus altogether–
an increasingly common practice as the British Empire, and resistance to it,
grew. In defending rendition, enhanced interrogation and indefinite
detention at Guantánamo, legal theorists in the Bush administration thus
borrowed from repressive tactics developed in colonial Ireland, Jamaica and
New Zealand–conquered places that allowed the British sun never to set
but where the law was too often put to sleep.

Halliday posits that "the history of habeas corpus traces an ongoing tension
between the logic of detention and the persistent judge." By 2004 it seemed
the judge might again be gaining the upper hand. In three cases decided in
June of that year, as images of prisoner degradation at Abu Ghraib spread
around the world, the Supreme Court condemned the Bush administration's
"unchecked system of detention" and breathed new life into habeas corpus.
Narrow majorities ruled on a number of key issues: citizens and aliens alike
retain their habeas rights, even if they are declared enemy combatants; the
executive's war powers do not insulate it from judicial review; and writs of
habeas corpus have the power to reach any jailer anywhere who is subject to
US law, even at Guantánamo Bay, which is officially Cuban territory but has
been controlled by the United States since the Spanish-American War.
Rejecting the Bush administration's most expansive arguments, the justices
noted that the founders, having suffered British despotism, regarded
"unlimited power" as "especially hazardous to freemen." As Justice
O'Connor famously commented, "A state of war is not a blank check for the

The Court's rulings marked another milestone in the history of the Great
Writ, yet the aftermath bears out Halliday's clear-eyed approach. Following
the advice of Justice Scalia, who accused his fellow justices of "judicial
adventurism of the worst sort" (ironically, just the sort of adventurism
that created habeas and sustained it over four centuries), Congress in 2005
stripped Guantánamo detainees of their habeas rights, reinforcing Halliday's
contention that legislators can be as hostile to civil liberties as
executives. In two subsequent cases, most categorically in Boumediene v.
(2008), the Court struck back, again rejecting President Bush's
determination to "govern without legal constraint" and Congress's
willingness to let him. The majority ruled that under the Constitution
lawmakers have no right to suspend the writ selectively and that military
tribunals, as set up by the Pentagon, provide no "adequate substitute" for
impartial, adversarial judicial review. Sweeping in scope, the decisions
nonetheless left the vast majority of detainees in legal limbo: still incarcerated,
still awaiting their day in court. Almost a decade after its creation–despite
constitutional censure and promises by President Obama to shut it down–
the prison camp that Amnesty International has called "the gulag of
our times" remains mostly insulated from the rule of law. On the page,
habeas corpus may have triumphed over the Bush administration's war of
fear, but on the ground the "logic of detention" continues to unfold.

This disjuncture between promise and practice is equally pronounced, if
less discussed, in other areas of modern US law. In the realm of immigration
enforcement, where federal detention has expanded most rapidly in recent
years, similar tensions have developed between the judiciary and the
political branches, and with similar results. In 2001 the Supreme Court held
in INS v. St. Cyr that immigration detainees have habeas rights and that
deportation hearings managed by the Justice Department, an executive
agency, cannot be walled off from judicial review, as Clinton-era statutes
tried to do. In 2005 Congress responded with the Real ID Act, which in
addition to setting up the rudiments of a controversial national ID card
system, included scarcely noticed provisions to paralyze the writ of habeas
corpus in immigration cases without actually killing it. By imposing
thirty-day federal filing deadlines and limiting the purview of the judiciary
to questions of constitutional law rather than the factual record of individual
cases, the statute preserved habeas in name but in effect made it unavailable
to thousands of detainees each year. "The government has so chipped
away at habeas in immigration cases as to make it an almost meaningless
right," says Lee Gelernt, an ACLU attorney who is building a case to
challenge the new law. He adds that an executive-only approach to
immigration enforcement has continued under the Obama administration,
which detained 380,000 individuals on immigration violations in 2009,
almost none of whom are provided access to counsel or even an independent
court hearing, much less habeas review.

In conventional criminal law, the United States is unique in using habeas
corpus primarily as a postconviction remedy. Invoking the writ successfully
has never been easy, as the case of Wilbert Rideau makes clear.
Nevertheless, postconviction habeas developed into an important alternative
to direct appeals and as a mechanism of equity relief, especially in death
penalty and civil rights cases. During the divisive crime debates of the
1990s, however, Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act (AEDPA), which put habeas petitions beyond the reach of all but
the most capably represented and egregiously wronged criminal detainees.
Extending legalistic restrictions already imposed by the Rehnquist Court,
the law requires prisoners to exhaust all state remedies before turning to
federal court, limits the ability of federal judges to question the
decisions of trial courts and imposes various administrative burdens on
petitioners, including strict deadlines for initial filings–all of which add
up to insurmountable barriers for most inmates, who tend to be indigent,
poorly educated and unrepresented by counsel. "AEDPA has been awful for
criminal defendants," says Vanita Gupta, an ACLU attorney who under more
forgiving state rules famously helped overturn a host of wrongful drug
convictions in Tulia, Texas. "Its onerous, lawyerly demands and blanket
restrictions have created a morass of litigation and severely curtailed the
reach of the Great Writ." Even as America's prison population has swollen to
an unparalleled size, a key conduit for release has thus been shut off, in
effect rendering the country's first civil right an inaccessible right. As
during the repressive ascendance of the British Empire, lawmakers in the
United States have "bound the judge and muffled the prisoner's sighs."

Halliday's history of setbacks and shortcomings is indeed discomfiting.
"Beginning with royal power" and ending with "detention of people on a
scale that defies judiciousness," his book suggests that the "idea of habeas
corpus"–that no person shall be detained except by due process of law–
"has been more powerful outside of courtrooms than inside them." Yet his
book is not without hope. Halliday shows how innovative and persistent
judges turned an instrument of the king's prerogative into a "writ of majestic,
even equitable, sweep" and managed, in some cases at least, to defend
it against "a legislative onslaught on liberties of every kind." In thwarting
the Bush administration's absolutist leanings, the Supreme Court has
recently shown glimmerings of that same independence, but the results
remain unclear. In the twenty-first century, habeas corpus can be as vital for
the protection of individual liberties as it was in the seventeenth, but
courageous judges–precisely the sort excoriated by Scalia–will have to
make it so.

Robert Perkinson teaches at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and is the
author of Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire.
Copyright © 2010 The Nation