As the New Abolitionist goes to press, there is the stirring of a new movement in Chicago to take on the issue of police torture. Different organizations have joined together to form a group called the Jail Jon Burge Coalition. The goal of this group is to force Cook County officials and the criminal courts to grant new hearings and trials for the more than 20 men who remain in prison stemming from confessions that were beaten and tortured from them while they were in police custody under the command of Jon Burge.
By: Pardoned Illinois Death Row Prisoner Stanley Howard
Barring any more delays, Jon Burge’s trial is set for May 24, 2010, while new trials still elude his victims. Burge and his cohorts tortured detainees with impunity for over 20 years.
He was eventually fired from the police department in 1993, receiving the equivalent of an early retirement with full honors, pension and benefits. He left Chicago, seeking to live comfortably under the Florida sun, while scores of his victims were rotting in prison on Illinois death row.
The Texas death penalty continues to spiral out of control. Since the death machine started up again in 1982, 452 men and women have been executed. Some 365 of those executions happened in the last 15 years, with 152 under the watch of former Governor George W. Bush, and another 213 since Rick Perry has been governor.
Timothy McKinney is a prisoner on Tennessee’s death row, wrongfully convicted of killing an off-duty police officer in Memphis on Christmas night in 1997.
An African-American man convicted of killing a white police officer, Tim’s trial was plagued by inadequate representation and prosecutorial misconduct. He was sentenced to death in 1999 after a two day trial, where the prosecution presented no physical evidence connecting him to the crime. Over 50 eyewitnesses testified in Tim’s defense at his appeal in 2006.
Troy Davis has been fighting for a new trial after being on Georgia’s death row for 19 years. But the law has found every possible bogus reason to deny him—until now. Finally this June, Troy will be able to present evidence of his innocence in open court, where witnesses can testify and be crossexamined.
We hope this will lead to a new trial, or better yet, that all charges will be dropped against Troy, and he is set free.
Kevin Cooper, Pat Foley, Jack Bryson and Crystal Bybee at San Quentin’s death row
By: Crystal Bybee
“The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man.” You would expect to hear this statement from activists such as myself. But this statement was made by five judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on May 11, 2009.
They were referring to Kevin Cooper, who has been on death row in California for the past 25 years. Kevin will likely be one of the first people to be executed if the state of California restarts the death machine.
It may be that struggle around issues of incarceration is set to pick up in New York if two recent events are any measure: the first-ever New York Prisoner Justice Conference in Albany, and a remarkable conference put on by Educators for Mumia at Columbia University.
Prisoner Justice Conference in Albany
The New York Prisoner Justice Conference, held March 27, was the product of months of hard work by organizers from around the state. Groups bused to the capital from cities across the state, including Buffalo, Ithaca, New York City, Rochester and elsewhere.
Students at The University of North Texas in Denton have proudly joined the nationwide struggle against the death penalty.
Last fall, we began organizing on campus in helping to end the execution of Reginald Blanton. Around the same time, about 30 people from Denton marched in the Tenth Annual March Against the Death Penalty in Austin.
“I saw them burn the nigger, didn’t I, Mama?” “Yes, darling, you saw them burn the nigger.”
—Overheard conversation between an eight-year-old and her mother after the lynching of Henry Smith
The screams of Henry Smith as he was tortured to death in 1893 were captured on gramophone and later sold. Photographs show a crowd of 10,000 gathered in Paris, Texas, arriving by train, in wagons and horses, and by foot to see the lynching. Postcards were made of the photos with the caption: “Wish You Were Here.”