Obama for Head Prison Warden



ok, ok – so it’s more like nine hundred thousand, if you don’t count the ones on parole and probation, in institutions and juvenile detention centers, working minimum wage jobs or waiting in line at the welfare office, locked into homeless shelters or locked out on the streets. But now that Obama is on the Democratic ticket, we’re supposed to forget about all that – America, land of opportunity!

Representative democracy is just like the free market: everyone supposedly gets a chance, but only a few come out on top. If you don’t win, you must not have tried hard enough! This is the same rationalization that our rulers use to justify the injustices of capitalism, sexism, and racism: look, you lazy bums, you could have been Bill Cosby or Hillary Clinton if you’d just worked harder.
The rest of us know the system is rigged to make us all losers. We deserve another world, another way of distributing power and resources that values everyone’s needs equally. If someone has to be a failure, let it be the ones who aspire to world domination, whose triumphs make us feel small; if anyone must languish in prison, let it be the politicians who seek power at everyone else’s expense. That would be some real Hope and Change.


McCain for Prisoner of War


As a former tortured prisoner who later voted against a bill banning waterboarding, John McCain is uniquely qualified to serve his country in the gulags of Guantánamo Bay and San Quentin. What kind of human being who has suffered imprisonment and abuse concludes that the solution is to be on the side doing the imprisoning and abusing?
Real freedom cannot depend on others’ imprisonment and oppression, just as true wealth cannot be derived
from others’ suffering and exploitation. Freedom and wealth are not limited prizes to be fought over like oil or political power, but gifts that multiply the more people share them. While McCain runs for President, the rest of us are still imprisoned in wage labor, leases and mortgages, and debt – at least, those of us lucky enough not to be in prison ourselves.
So long as there are governments, armies, and corporations, there will always be oppression, there will always be prison camps and torturers. McCain didn’t learn the important lessons of his time in Vietnam, but he deserves another chance.

Mumia Abu-Jamal legal update: The Philly DA still wants to execute him

Infoshop News

Below is the new legal update from Mumia Abu-Jamal’s lead attorney Robert R. Bryan, concerning Mumia’s appeal to the US Supreme Court. He is appealing the US Third Circuit Court decision denying a new guilt-phase trial or a preliminary hearing that could have led to a new guilt phase trial. The Supreme Court granted Bryan’s request for a 60-day extension, so he will have to submit his petition by Dec. 19, 2008.

Significantly, Bryan announces that the Philadelphia DA is appealing the Third Circuit Court’s affirmation of US District Court Judge William Yohn’s 2001 decision, which ‘overturned’ the death penalty and stated that if the DA wants to re-impose the death sentence, they must hold a new penalty-phase jury trial where new evidence of Mumia’s innocence can be presented, BUT, the jury can only decide between a sentence of life without chance of parole or execution. Therefore, if the US Supreme Court rules for the DA and overturns this ruling, Mumia can then be executed without having a new penalty-phase jury trial. The DA will submit their petition by Nov. 19, 2008.

Below is the official legal update just released by lead attorney Robert R. Bryan:

Legal Update

Date: October 18, 2008
From: Robert R. Bryan, lead counsel, San Francisco
Subject: U.S. Supreme Court developments concerning Mumia Abu-Jamal, death row

U.S. Supreme Court

There are new developments in the case of my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is on Pennsylvania’s death row, that are the most significant and deadly since his 1981 arrest. The prosecution has advised the Supreme Court that it is seeking reversal of the federal decision which ordered a new jury trial on the question of the death penalty. Earlier I made an appearance in the court on our ongoing effort to win an entirely new jury trial on the issue of innocence, so that Mumia can be freed.

We are now at the crossroads of the case. This is a life and death struggle in the fight for Mumia’s freedom. His life hangs in the balance. The following are details as to what has been occurring in the Supreme Court.

Abu-Jamal v. Beard, U.S. Sup. Ct. No. 08A299

On October 3, I filed in the Supreme Court a Motion for Extension of Time To File Petition for Writ of Certiorari. Justice David H. Souter granted the motion on October 9. The Petition is now due on December 19, 2008.

The issues I will be presenting on behalf of Mumia include racism in jury selection and the prosecutor’s misrepresentations to the jury during the guilt phase of the 1982 trial. These were denied last spring by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia. Abu-Jamal v. Horn, 520 F.3d 272 (3rd Cir. 2008). The court was split 2-1 on the racism question.

The prosecution’s use of racism in selecting the jury is a strong issue because of the powerful dissenting opinion by Judge Thomas L. Ambro. In voting that relief should be granted, he wrote that “[e]xcluding even a single person from a jury because of race violates the Equal Protection Clause of our Constitution” and concluded that “everyone is entitled to a fair and impartial trial by a jury of his or her peers.”

A major problem we have encountered is that Mumia’s previous lawyers neither developed essential evidence nor raised some issues of constitutional significance. Such failings are inexcusable. For example his attorneys during the period 1994-2001, failed to even get the racial composition of the panel from which the jury was selected. They had the jurors’ names and addresses, and could have gone out and obtained this information in a day. Once the case went up on appeal it was too late to introduce this crucial evidence which would have established beyond question that African-Americans were underrepresented on the jury panel and that the prosecution used discriminatory racial practices in jury selection. Justice Ambro pointed out in his dissent that this deficiency should not serve as a basis to deny relief in view of the other evidence we have of prosecutorial racism. Another issue concerning the judge’s racism and prejudice at trial was doomed from the start because it was not even presented by the previous lawyers. Rather, they only argued that the judge was unfair 13 years later at a 1995 evidentiary hearing. It was an incompetent mistake that waived this strong issue. Sadly, Mumia is bound by the errors of those lawyers.

Beard v. Abu-Jamal, U.S. Sup. Ct. No. 08A315

The Philadelphia District Attorney is seeking reversal of the federal court decision which granted a new jury trial on the question of the death penalty. Their intent is to see Mumia executed. That was announced in an extension motion filed in the Supreme Court. The court ordered on October 14 that the government petition must be filed by November 19, 2008. We will then submit briefing in opposition to the death penalty arguments.

Abu-Jamal v. Pennsylvania, U.S. Sup. Ct. No. 08-5456

In a ruling not related to the present litigation, the Supreme Court on October 6 issued an order denying the petition we had filed seeking review of a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. That concerned the denial of a new trial based upon the fact that the prosecution persuaded witnesses to lie in order to obtain a conviction and death judgment against my client. This arises from adverse rulings by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The District Attorney successfully argued that Mumia’s previous lawyers had failed to raise the misconduct issues in a timely manner. Even though this evidence of fraud is not before the Supreme Court, I will certainly be able to use it at a new jury trial.

Donations for Mumia’s Legal Defense Due to the developments in the Supreme Court, the legal defense for Mumia is in dire need of funds. The legal costs will likely reach $100,000. To help, please make your checks payable to the “National Lawyers Guild Foundation” (indicate “Mumia” on the bottom left). These donations to Mumia’s defense are tax deductible, and should be mailed to:

Committee To Save Mumia Abu-Jamal
P.O. Box 2012
New York, NY 10159-2012


More activism and support is needed in the campaign to free Mumia from the death penalty and prison. It is an affront to civilized standards and international law that he remains in prison and on death row. We must have hope and fight for justice.

Yours very truly,

Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117

Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal
RobertRBryan [at] aol.com

Max Specktor, of the RNC 8, to plead not guilty to terrorism charges

BY Jon Collins and Alex Robinson
PUBLISHED: 10/13/2008

A University student arrested preemptively before the Republican National Convention will be one of the first people prosecuted under a terrorism clause in the Minnesota Patriot Act since it was passed in 2002.

Cultural studies junior Max Specktor is charged with conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism.

Monday, Specktor’s hearing was postponed until at least November.

Specktor and seven other defendants facing the same charge will be heard together, and face a maximum of seven and a half years of jail time.

The eight suspects, calling themselves the RNC 8, plan to plead not guilty to the charges, defendant Nathanael Secor said.

Max Specktor

As a housemate fried long strips of sweet potato in the kitchen, Specktor sat on the front stairs of his Minneapolis house and dwelled on the prospect of seven-and-a-half years in jail, and the guarantee of cost and worry from a yearlong trial.

Specktor, a graduate of Minneapolis South High School, got involved with activism by planning protests against the Iraq War.

“After doing that kind of work in high school, I was kind of burned out on trying to change something with a big protest,” Specktor said. “I was getting into local community work.”

He got involved with a now-closed Jackpine Community Center on Lake Street in Minneapolis, where many people were planning protests with the RNC Welcoming Committee , an anti-authoritarian activist group.

“The RNC, obviously I didn’t want it to come to my town,” he said. “I thought, ‘Wow, maybe this is a chance to learn some skills and build community.’ ”

The group, which typically fluctuated between 20 and 30 people, took inspiration from mass mobilizations from the “anti-globalization movement” of the late 1990s, like the protests that helped shut down the World Trade Organization’s conference in Seattle in 1999.

“I got a lot of inspiration from that,” he said. “Our movement, especially the radical anti-war and social justice, needs a big event to keep it going.”

The RNC Welcoming Committee wasn’t planning any illegal actions, Specktor said; instead they set up housing, meals and legal support for other protesters, some of whom might engage in civil disobedience.

“Basically, we provided the infrastructure for people to survive in the city while they’re protesting,” he said.

But authorities pointed to the group’s website, which urged a strategy called “swarm, seize, and stay” that used civil disobedience to try to shut down the convention.

Civil disobedience, while illegal, can be traced back to the foundation of the United States and is very different from terrorism, Specktor said.

“[Civil disobedience is] consciously making a decision to disobey for a higher purpose,” he said. “It’s a time-honored tradition that we celebrate in our history books, the people in the civil rights era who sat in at the lunch counters and wouldn’t get out of their seats.”

Preemptive raids

The weekend before the protests, activists’ houses, including Specktor’s, were raided by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement agencies.

Six members of the RNC Welcoming Committee were arrested Saturday, Aug. 30, while Specktor and another man were arrested the following Monday morning — Sept. 1, the first day of the RNC.

Protesters had yet to unfurl the first banner during protests in St. Paul.

During raids, police said they found throwing-style knives, fireworks, a box containing gas masks and lock picking kits, according to the criminal complaint.

They also seized activist literature concerning the RNC, maps of St. Paul, paint and electronics, the complaint stated.

After Specktor’s arrest, police found a backpack containing a plastic bottle of Mylanta, black gloves, and a paper entitled: “St. Paul and the RNC burn 9/1/08.”

In Specktor’s vehicle, police found a pry bar, two boxes of firecrackers, five assorted black helmets and a roll of unused caution tape, the police complaint stated.

The actions police and authorities took were ridiculous, said Ted Dooley , one of the lawyers representing the RNC 8.

“Anything is a weapon if it is used as a weapon,” he said.

The Ramsey County Sheriff’s department spokesperson did not return multiple phone calls requesting comment.

After the raids, Specktor was the only one of the RNC 8 who was held in the psychiatric ward of the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center, he said.

“I was in a cell by myself; the whole time I was only released for an hour to walk along this short hallway and make a few phone calls,” he said. “I felt powerless, but I didn’t feel threatened.”

After three days, he was released after being charged with conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism.

The Case

Bruce Nestor, president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild said the terrorism charges trivialize real acts of violence and potentially violate the First Amendment.

“This is an attempt to criminalize political dissent,” he said. “It has a chilling effect on anybody planning political activities.”

However, University law professor Dale Carpenter said if the state can prove the RNC 8 had intent to commit violence, the state has a pretty good chance of winning the case.

The state doesn’t have to wait for people to riot or endanger lives in order to make arrests, Carpenter said.

“If someone is threatening to punch you, a police officer doesn’t have to wait until he actually punches you to arrest him,” Carpenter said.

After lawyers obtained copies of search warrants, Welcoming Committee members discovered that the group had been infiltrated by law enforcement and paid informants for about a year.

Information obtained by paid police informants is often inaccurate or made up, Nestor said.

“There’s a history of paid informants actually being provocateurs,” Nestor said. “Meaning they commit illegal acts or encourage illegal acts to increase the value of their information.”

During a raid on an unrelated house during the RNC, information provided by one of the FBI’s informants was inaccurate, Nestor said.

The informant said there would be boxes of weapons delivered to a house in St. Paul, but the boxes turned out to contain literature instead, Nestor said.

“If that’s one of the informers that the FBI is relying on, I have no more reason to trust the informers being used by the Ramsey County Sheriff,” he said

Specktor said it was strange to realize people he’d worked with for more than a year were being paid by police.

“We went through all this organizing aware that we might be surveilled,” he said. “It’s kind of creepy when you find out who those people were.”

Community reactions

Specktor said his friends, family and neighbors have been nothing but supportive.

“You might read blogs that say we’re terrorists and people comment and say we should be hung up,” Specktor said, “but my friends and everyone I’ve talked to since these events have gone down have had nothing but positive things to say.”

Mordecai Specktor , Max Specktor’s father and the editor of American Jewish World said he and Specktor’s mother are proud of their son’s activism.

“My wife and I are worried about Max; of course we don’t want to see our son go to prison,” he said. “We’re glad that he’s idealistic and that he has ideas about social betterment and uplifting people.”

As a journalist, Mordecai Specktor said the media mostly failed to critically examine police claims about activists.

“In the case of the RNC 8, there’s all these wild claims [in the police’s complaint] of kidnapping delegates,” he said. “Journalists should be investigating the case and finding where the truth lies; we’re not just like the record and playback buttons on the tape recorder.”

The arrests and charges facing the RNC 8 are designed to intimidate people from demonstrating, Mordecai Specktor said.

“We saw this dress rehearsal for the police state during the RNC,” he said. “[It’s] designed to make people nervous about articulating their views.”

Gus Ganley , a University film student who was found innocent during his own trial for an arrest at a protest last year, said facing prison time for activism can interfere with relationships and self-esteem.

“The nature of this crime, it’s a thought crime,” Ganley said. “You’re constantly thinking about it, constantly looking over your shoulder.”

Ganley, a friend of Specktor’s, said Specktor tries not to let the charges affect his life.

“With Max, I’ve noticed if anything he’s more energized,” Ganley said. “That just speaks to his character, that he’s somebody with such a vast reserve of energy that he’s able to tap into.”

Specktor said he’s trying to focus on the importance of his case as an educational tool.

“It might inspire people if we win. It might inspire people if we lose,” he said. “If people see we’re going to jail for their belief it’s going to inspire people.”

The price of losing the case would be balanced by this educational benefit, Specktor said.

“I’m not saying I want to go to jail,” he said. “If you stand up for your beliefs and they arrest you for it, I don’t think you should stop standing up for your beliefs.”

Posted in USA

Mumia Denied New Trial by Supreme Court


The US Supreme Court Monday refused to hear arguments for a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther accused of killing a police officer who has become an icon for anti-capital punishment campaigners.

His lawyer Robert Bryan has already said he will seek to bring a second Supreme Court appeal — on the grounds of racism — for the 54-year-old former radio journalist accused of the 1981 murder of Daniel Faulkner.

Abu-Jamal’s death sentence was overturned in March by a federal court in Philadelphia, which found that the jury in the case had been incorrectly instructed. The judges voted two-to-one to uphold his conviction, however.

Having escaped death row, his lawyers are now fighting a life sentence and want to bring him back before a jury for a new trial.

They had asked the Supreme Court to approve a re-trial because of unreliable testimony from witnesses.

Bryan has said he will not rest until his client is freed. “Even though the federal court granted a new trial on the question of the death penalty, we want a complete reversal of the conviction,” he said in July.

As part of his defense, Abu-Jamal has argued he was denied a fair trial in 1982 because the prosecution barred 10 qualified African-Americans from sitting on the jury, which in the end consisted of 10 whites and two blacks.

The Philadelphia appeals court had rejected his arguments on lack of evidence of any racist intent on the part of the prosecution.

The US penal code bans the exclusion of potential jurists because of the colour of their skin.

Abu-Jamal’s campaign has attracted support from Nelson Mandela, Hollywood celebrities Danny Glover and Susan Sarandon and British parliamentarians, according to campaign group Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition.

Abu-Jamal was serving as the president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists at the time of his arrest. He was a founding member of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Black Panther Party as a teenager.

The Black Panther Party was a Leftist African-American organization from the 1960s and 70s established to promote black power and self-defense.

Posted in USA

U.S. indictment against man charged in 1975 slaying of Canadian woman dismissed


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A judge in South Dakota has dismissed the indictment against a Canadian man in the decades-old slaying of Annie Mae Aquash, a fellow Canadian aboriginal activist.

John Graham was charged with the shooting death of Aquash on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1975. Both Graham and Aquash,, a Mi’kmaq from Pictou, N.S., were affiliated with the American Indian Movement.

Graham’s lawyer asked federal Judge Lawrence Piersol to dismiss the indictment against his client on technical grounds.

The lawyer argued that the U.S. government didn’t have jurisdiction because the accused and victim were both members of Canadian tribes.

Prosecutors argued that the indictment was sound because the other man indicted and already convicted, Arlo Looking Cloud, fits the U.S. definition of Indian.

Although Monday’s scheduled trial in Rapid City, S.D., is now off, officials say prosecutors can seek another indictment against Graham.

New British Mumia Film Acquired by Sundance!


NEW YORK, Oct. 1 (UPI) — Sundance Channel has announced it acquired “In Prison My Whole Life,” a feature documentary executive produced by British actor Colin Firth.

Directed by Marc Evans and written by Evans and William Francome, the film “follows 25-year-old William Francome’s investigation into the arrest of Mumia Abu Jamal, famed death-row prisoner and award-winning Black Panther journalist,” Sundance Channel said in a news release.

“Francome, born on the day of Mumia’s Dec. 9, 1981 arrest (for the killing of a Philadelphia police officer), engages intellectuals, writers and musicians in an effort to expose the truth about justice in America for black activists in general and Mumia in particular.”

Featuring interviews with Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, Mos Def, Snoop Dogg and Steve Earle, the film is scheduled to premiere on Sundance Channel Dec. 8.