Wednesday, November 12, 2014




Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:








  • EU's top court rules favorably for André Shepherd, resister in Germany
  • Tomas Young (1979-2014), Iraq War veteran and anti-war hero
  • Objector Sara Beining trial set for Dec. 9th at Ft Carson, Colorado
  • Armistice Day statement from Veterans for Peace

André Shepherd gets favorable ruling from EU's top court prior to asylum hearing!

shepherdNovember 11, 2014. By Connection e.V.and Courage to Resist
In the legal case of U.S. AWOL soldier André Shepherd, the European Court of Justice Advocate General, Eleanor Sharpton, ruled that those endangered by prosecution or punishment for refusal to perform military service involving an illegal war or committal of war crimes, should be protected by the European Union. This is a best-case situation for André heading into his asylum hearing.
Rudi Friedrich of Connection e.V. (Germany) stated, "Should the European Union Court of Justice respect the Advocate General's final opinion, the position in asylum cases of military service refusers and deserters will be significantly reinforced.
André Shepherd, upon reading Sharpton's decision, "The final opinion gives me new reason for optimism, both in my own case, and for the rights of other deserters."

Tomas Young (1979-2014)

tomas youngNovember 11, 2014. Excerpts from CommonDreams obituary
Iraq war veteran and outspoken Iraq war critic Tomas Young has died at the age of 34.
Tomas Young enlisted in the Army following the September 11 attacks, volunteering to go to Afghanistan. He was sent to Iraq in 2004, and was left paralyzed by a bullet on the fifth day of his deployment. In 2008, he explained that "many of us volunteered with patriotic feelings in our heart, only to see them subverted and bastardized by the administration and sent into the wrong country."
Young was the subject of the award-wining documentary Body of War by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro.
Last year, Tomas read a letter to Bush and Cheney which read in part: "You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans — my fellow veterans — whose future you stole."
Photo by Jeff Paterson. Tomas Young traveled to Crawford, Texas in an attempt to challenge President Bush on the Iraq War. August 29, 2005.

War resister Sara Beining court martial set for Dec. 9 at Fort Carson, Colorado

sara beiningClick here to contribute to Sara Beining’s legal defense and prison fund
November 11, 2014. Courage to Resist and the Nuclear Resister
Facing a lengthy prison sentence, Army war resister Sara Beining is scheduled to be court martialed at Fort Carson, Colorado at 9am, December 9th, on two counts of desertion.
Supporters are encouraged to attend the trial, contribute to her legal and prison fund, and send her letters letter of support to: Sara Beining, A0305918 / Criminal Justice Center / 2739 E. Las Vegas St / Colorado Springs, CO 80906
Sara is a single mother and Iraq war veteran. She is being held in the civilian county jail prior to her military trial. Sara went AWOL a second time last summer after a nearly year-long delay in resolving the original charge that resulted when she left her unit at Ft. Hood in January, 2007.
Just over one year ago, September 14, 2013, Beining was stopped for a traffic offense and held on an outstanding military warrant, more than six years after she and her newlywed husband had together walked away from war service. She was briefly jailed, then given a plane ticket and orders to report back to Fort Carson, Colorado, where, she said, “I tried for another year to play the game” and be quietly processed out of the army as many other recent military refusers have been. But in her absence without leave, Beining had given birth to a daughter in September, 2008 and become an outspoken opponent of war.

Courage to Resist
484 Lake Park Ave. #41
 Oakland, CA 94610



Occupation, Repression, and Strategies of Resistance from the US to Palestine:
A Night of Music, Food, and Conversation to Support the Case of Rasmea Odeh

Featuring from Palestine:
Sahar Francis, Deputy Director of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

Friday, November 14th, 7pm
1721 Broadway, Oakland
Accessible by elevator and Bart

$10-20 donation
All proceeds will go to Rasmea Odeh's defense fund

RSVP & purchase ticket:
Tickets will also be available at the door. Please consider purchasing in advance to help us account for food.

Presentations by:
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Critical Resistance
AROC: Arab Resource & Organizing Center 

Catering by Reem's: Arab street food with California love
Arabic music by Wael Buhaissy and Fatima Lahlou

This is a crucial time to come to Rasmea's defense. Please-mark your calendar, and spread the word widely about this upcoming Fundraiser to Support the Defense of Rasmea Odeh.

The political trial of Palestinian American activist Rasmea Odeh has reached a critical point. Odeh is the founder of the Arab Women's Committee in Chicago, a grassroots collective that promotes leadership among Arab immigrant women. The US government has accused her of omitting an answer on her citizenship application 10 years ago. Odeh, who was sexually tortured into a false confession by Israel and served a decade in Israeli prisons, faces revocation of her citizenship, imprisonment, and deportation.

Last week, Judge Gershwin Drain ruled that, although Odeh's account of the torture and forced confession were "credible," they were not admissible as evidence. This casts a dark shadow on her chances of receiving a fair trial. We will have the latest news on her trial, which begins November 4th.

In the words of a letter of protest by more than 100 feminist scholars:
Rasmea's story encompasses some of the most urgent feminist struggles of our times-violence against women and the use of sexual violence as a tool of colonization and war; the impact of racism and anti-immigrant policies upon women; the criminalization of women of color; and the use of intimidation to thwart feminist activism. | 415.861.7444


Rasmea Defense Committee statement

Without a full and fair trial,
Rasmea found guilty

In a travesty of justice, Rasmea Odeh today was found guilty of one count of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization. For over a year, Rasmea, her supporters, and her legal team have been battling this unjust government prosecution, saying from the start that the immigration charge was nothing but a pretext to attack this icon of the Palestine liberation movement. And although there is real anger and disappointment in the jury’s verdict, it was known as early as October 27th that she would not get a full and fair trial.

On that day, Judge Gershwin Drain made a number of rulings that made her defense virtually impossible. The government’s indictment stated that she had unlawfully gained U.S. citizenship because she had allegedly answered a number of questions falsely on her visa application in 1995 and her naturalization application in 2004. She had been in this country as a lawful permanent resident for almost 20 years, and a citizen for over nine, when she was arrested on October 22nd, 2013.

The main basis for the arrest a year ago was that she had allegedly falsely answered “No” to a question asking whether she had ever been arrested or imprisoned. The government claimed that she failed to disclose that she had been convicted by the Israelis of participating in bombings in 1969. This conviction in a military court was the result of a false confession made after she was viciously tortured and raped by Israeli military authorities for weeks. There is no due process in Israeli military courts, which “convict” over 99% of Palestinians who come before them, and “evidence” from these should not be accepted in a court in the U.S.

But Judge Drain did allow the conviction in Israel to be entered into evidence; and even though he suggested that Rasmea’s assertion that she faced torture and sexual abuse at the hands of her Israeli captors was “credible,” he still ruled that it could not be brought up in the course of her trial. So her attorneys had to scrap plans to call to the stand an expert witness, clinical psychologist Dr. Mary Fabri, who has decades of experience working with torture survivors, to testify that the allegedly false answers on the immigration forms were the result of Rasmea’s chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The judge also rejected Rasmea’s selective prosecution motion, even though it was clear that the case against her grew out of the investigation of 23 anti-war and Palestinian community organizers in Chicago and Minneapolis, who were subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in 2010. Make no mistake. Rasmea came under attack by the U.S. government because she is Palestinian, and because for decades, she has organized for Palestinian liberation and self-determination, the Right of Return, and an end to U.S. funding of Israeli occupation. Palestine support work, especially the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, has made a number of recent gains, and the long arm of federal law enforcement has attempted to crack down on it, like it has on all effective and impactful movements for social justice in the history of this country. The crackdown reached Rasmea.

More than 200 people from across the Midwest, especially from Chicago, traveled to stand with her throughout the trial. They bore silent witness to her incredible testimony, for despite the judge’s rulings, she and her defense team did put the crimes of Israel on record. Her story of being exiled from the village of her birth, Lifta, in 1948; of being exiled again during the 1967 war; of experiencing the death of her sister after the raid on her home in 1969; and of being a political prisoner, one of the most famous in the history of the Palestine liberation movement—all these are stories of the crimes of apartheid Israel, crimes that continue today in the racist settler and military assaults we have seen in the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, 1948 Palestine, and the West Bank. Israel’s terrorism, and the U.S. government’s complicity, were exposed for all the world to see.

Rasmea’s honesty in the face of cross-examination from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel was thoroughly convincing as well. She said clearly that she thought the questions on the immigration forms were being asked about her time in the U.S., because she said she had nothing to hide and did not need to lie. She had testified about her torture at the United Nations when she was released in 1979, and as her lead attorney, Michael Deutsch, said, “It was well known that she was convicted, and traded [in a prisoner exchange]. The U.S. Embassy knew it, the State Department knew it, and Immigration should have known it.” So although the government had to prove that she “knowingly lied,” it never met that burden, regardless of what the verdict says.

For over a year, the Rasmea Defense Committee has been organizing educational events, rallies, protests, and call-in days to demand that U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade and Tukel drop the charges against her. We now have more work ahead of us. Rasmea’s brilliant legal team—Deutsch, Jim Fennerty, Bill Goodman, and Dennis Cunningham—will undoubtedly file an appeal, and have strong grounds to do so, based on Judge Drain’s unjust decisions. And we will continue to support their work with our political organizing and mobilizations.

Just like our people in Palestine and across the world will never rest until every inch of historical Palestine is free, we will never rest in our defense and support of Rasmea as she moves forward to challenge this conviction. As Deutsch said in his closing statement to the jury, “It has been one of the great privileges of my long legal career to represent this extraordinary woman of great passion and dignity.” Rasmea’s story is the story of millions of Palestinians, and of millions of freedom-loving defenders of justice everywhere. Her eventual victory will be a victory for Palestine and for all the people’s movements across the world.

Today, we thank everyone who stood with Rasmea this past year, and ask you to continue fighting with us until we achieve that victory. and
Donate to Rasmea! today

 follow on Twitter | friend on Facebook | forward to a friend
Copyright © 2014 Committee to Stop FBI Repression, All rights reserved.
Thanks for your ongoing interest in the fight against FBI repression of anti-war and international solidarity activists!
Our mailing address is:
Committee to Stop FBI Repression
PO Box 14183
Minneapolis, MN 55414






Friday, November 14, 2014, 1:00 P.M.

The date the court has ordered prosecutors to answer!

Office of the PA Attorney General

Strawberry Square, Harrisburg, PA

When will the Legal Lynching of
Innocent People Stop?

—a statement by Lorenzo "Cat" Johnson, November 5, 2014

At Trial and Direct Appeal while two Innocent men’s lives were at stake, Attorney General Christopher Abruzzo knowingly introduced false testimony and let false testimony go uncorrected from the Trial Court, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court that relied on said testimony. From there the Attorney General's office introduced this evidence in Federal Court's: District Court, the Third Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court, knowing that said testimony was false, misleading and untrue.

The false misleading and untrue testimony introduced in all stages of my appeal process led to the Summary Reversal of the Third Circuit Dismissal of my case.

The U. S. Supreme Court in it's Summary Reversal and Per Curiam opinion relied on false, misleading and untrue testimony that prosecutor Abruzzo knowingly introduced in my trial.

At all times the prosecution, in it's own file dating back from 1995 had knowledge and evidence showing that the arguments and claims presented at court was false and THEY "NEVER" corrected it to this date. …

The evidence recently released from the files of the Attorney General's office shows conclusively that the findings of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals was correct, rightful and legally sound and based on a true reading of the evidence. That the evidence was indeed Insufficient and if the recently released files were available to trial counsel, I would have been quickly found Innocent.  What do you think?
                                   “The Pain Within”


Reach Lorenzo “Cat” Johnson:
 Lorenzo Johnson DF1036
 SCI Mahanoy
 302 Morea Road  
 Frackville, PA 17932  

Twitter: @FREERENZ
Instagram: 1Lorenzo code:
Lorenzo Johnson DF 1036 PA DOC




Sat. Nov. 15, 12noon
March and Protest for Mexico
24th and Mission St.

Hundreds of people marched in anger late Saturday to the Presidential Palace in Mexico’s capital after the government announced that the 43 students who disappeared seven weeks ago in the state of Guerrero have been murdered.

A political crisis is unfolding for Peña Nieto’s government, who has done nothing to stem the wave of murders and remained silent for weeks in this latest massacre.

The Bay Area stands in solidarity with the people of Mexico. We demand:
Resignation of the EPN government
End to the Narco-government
End to State/Drug Cartel Repression
US Out of Mexico

Send a message in order to add your group to the list of supporters.

Patrocinado por/Sponsored by:
ANSWER Coalition
The Kenneth Harding Jr. Foundation
La Misión de Martin Baro Proyecto de Transformación.
Left Party
Party for Socialism and Liberation - PSL
Workers World Party
Yo Soy 132 Bay Area




First Amendment Lawsuit

"Abu-Jamal v. Kane" filed 11/10 in Federal Court!

Dear Friends,

Today the Abolitionist Law Center, Amistad Law Project, and the
Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center are filing a historic lawsuit in Federal Court on behalf of Prison Radio, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Educators for Mumia, and other plaintiffs. We seek to overturn a new PA Law designed to allow the state to silence targeted prisoners by preventing their speech.

What is at stake is your right to hear Mumia and other prisoners, journalists right to record, and prisoners right to speak.  As a puppet for the agenda of the Fraternal Order of Police, and to add to his poll numbers, PA Governor Tom Corbett signed SB508 into law on 10/21, (effective immediately), and specifically targeting Mumia Abu-Jamal's right to free speech.

The law puts Prison Radio, our correspondents, and our listeners in jeopardy. So in response we have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in the middle district of PA (Harrisburg).

We will win this lawsuit.
We will continue to record Mumia.
We can uphold all prisoners’ rights to speak their truth.
But we need your help to do it.


Defeat Pennsylvania’s Prisoner Gag Law!

Free Speech Under Threat from Police & Politicians!

Mumia is the Immediate Target, but We’re All in the Cross-Hairs!

How You Can Help… see below…

07 November 2014 — An outrageous new law threatening the free speech of convicts has been passed in Pennsylvania in a lightning fast process. The chief target of this law?  Innocent political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, and others like him. The perpetrators of this law?  The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), and their lap-dog friends in the state legislature and governor’s mansion of PA. The victims of this law? Convicts like Mumia; non-profits that distribute the writings and speech of convicts; and ultimately the working class and all who oppose this racist, capitalist system.

The new law, the “Re-victimization Relief Act,” enables crime victims—as well as local authorities and the state, using taxpayer funds—to sue any imprisoned convict whose conduct “perpetuates the continuing effect of the crime on the victim,” ie, causes “mental anguish.” This broad and subjective definition could mean anything!

PA Governor: Convicts Have No Rights

This law was hashed together, and quickly passed and signed in reaction to a pre-recorded commencement address to a Goddard College graduating class by Mumia Abu-Jamal, himself a graduate of Goddard College.  Mumia’s inspiring address at Goddard said absolutely nothing about his case, yet cops protested at the college entrance; and days later the law was signed by PA Governor Corbett in a ceremony at 13th and Locust in Philadelphia, the spot where Officer Daniel Faulkner was shot to death—by someone other than Mumia—in 1981. Corbett said that “convicted felons in prison have abused and surrendered their rights,” a blatantly false assertion.

Protestors shouted “free Mumia,” and “one-term Tom” at the Governor, which is what he turned out to be after losing his seat in the recent mid-term elections. But the threatening law he signed continues to menace convicts.

“Mumia Bill” Designed to “Shut Him Up”

This new law is just the latest manifestation of the blatant targeting of Mumia, by the very cops, courts and politicians who put him away for a crime he didn’t commit in the first place. Called the “Mumia Bill,” this act was designed to “shut him up” (, 07.Oct.2014). It follows a long line of “Mumia rules,” in which courts have literally changed precedent when considering Mumia’s case, only to change back again on other cases later. Will this blatantly unconstitutional law get overturned, or will it be allowed to stand as yet another “Mumia rule,” in defiance of all precedent? We cannot take that chance!

Mumia’s case is just the immediate pretext for this legal atrocity. The danger here is that this blatantly unconstitutional law could have far-reaching effects, even if it does eventually get overturned. What about radio stations such as the Pacifica Network, and non-profit organizations such as Prison Radio, which promote the defense cases, and distribute the writings of Mumia and other convicts, wrongfully convicted or otherwise?  They all have the right of free speech!

Lawyers with the Abolitionist Law Center and the Amistad Law Project have joined with Prison Radio (publishers of Mumia’s commentaries) to mount an aggressive defense against this vindictive, so-called “legal” challenge to the right of free speech. These folks need you help!

— Donate Now To Defeat PA’s Prisoner Gag Law —

Go to:

Mumia has been definitively shown to be innocent of the 1981 crime for which he was convicted. He was the victim of an orchestrated frame-up by cops and prosecutors, who were not only targeting a known leftist and former Black Panther, and not only covering up their own rampant corruption in Philadelphia’s inner city; but they were also covering their probable complicity in the execution of one of their own, who was talking to the Feds about the corruption at the time.

The system has chickened out of trying to execute Mumia, since the evidence of his innocence is so overwhelming. But they’ve confined him to state prison for life without the possibility of parole (LWOP). Our job remains unchanged: Mumia is Innocent! For labor action to free Mumia!

Defeat Pennsylvania’s Prisoner Gag Law!

This message brought to you by:

The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

PO Box 16222, Oakland CA 94610 • • 510.762.2347

November 2014


Support Prison Radio

$35 is the yearly membership.

$50 will get you a beautiful tote bag (you can special order a yoga mat bag, just call us).

$100 will get the DVD "Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary"

$300 will bring one essay to the airwaves.

$1000 (or $88.83 per month) will make you a member of our Prison Radio Freedom Circle. Take a moment and Support Prison Radio

Luchando por la justicia y la libertad,

Noelle Hanrahan, Director, Prison Radio


P.O. Box 411074 San Francisco, CA 94141 415-706-5222

Pennsylvania legislators are trying to stop prisoners from speaking about their ideas and experiences. Last week, PA Representative Mike Vereb introduced a bill (HB2533) called the “Revictimization Relief Act,” which would allow victims, District Attorneys, and the Attorney General to sue people who have been convicted of “personal injury” crimes for speaking out publicly if it causes the victim of the crime “mental anguish.”

The bill was written in response to political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal’s commencement speech at Goddard College, and is a clear attempt to silence Mumia and other prisoners and formerly incarcerated people. We believe that this legislation is not actually an attempt to help victims, but a cynical move by legislators to stop people in prison from speaking out against an unjust system.

While to us this seems like a clear violation of the first amendment, unfortunately the PA General Assembly doesn’t appear to agree, and they have fast-tracked the bill for approval and amended another bill (SB508) to include the same language. The legislation could be voted on as early as Wednesday.

If this bill passes, it will be a huge blow to the movement against mass incarceration. People inside prisons play a leading role in these struggles, and their perspectives, analysis, and strategies are essential to our work. Incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people who write books, contribute to newspapers, or even write for our Voices from the Inside section would run the risk of legal consequences just for sharing their ideas.

That’s why we are asking you to take action TUESDAY OCTOBER 14 by calling Pennsylvania lawmakers to tell them that prisoners should not be denied the right to speak.

Please call your legislators and demand that they vote NO on HB2533 and SB508. You can look up contact information at

We are also asking folks to call the following Senate leaders and ask them to stop the bill from moving forward:

Senate Majority Whip Pat Browne  (717) 787-1349

Senate Minority Whip Anthony Williams  (717) 787-5970

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi  (717) 787-4712

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (717) 787-7683

Not sure what to say on the phone? Click here for a sample call script.

Want to write a letter to your legislators, or looking for more talking points? Click here for more info!

- See more at:



Medical Care Needed for Chelsea Manning!

ACLU files lawsuit against Army demanding medical care for Manning

By the Chelsea Manning Support Network

Yesterday, the ACLU and Chelsea Manning filed a lawsuit against the Army demanding the necessary medical treatment for Manning’s previously diagnosed gender dysphoria.

By continuing to deny Manning treatment, the Army is directly violating Chelsea’s constitutional rights under the 8th amendment. Chase Strangio, attorney in the ACLU Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender project and co-counsel on Ms. Manning’s case, notes “such clear disregard of well-established medical protocols constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.”

Due to a full year of neglecting Manning’s medical care, the ACLU had previously announced a Sept 4th deadline for the Army to provide treatment. After continued failure to provide treatment, the ACLU filed a lawsuit yesterday and released the following statement:

ACLU Demands Government Provide Chelsea Manning Necessary Medical Care


September 23, 2014

CONTACT: Crystal Cooper, ACLU National, 212-549-2666;

WASHINGTON—Today, Chelsea Manning filed a lawsuit in federal court in the District of Columbia against Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and other Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of the Army officials for their failure to provide necessary medical treatment for her gender dysphoria, a condition with which she was originally diagnosed by Army doctors more than four years ago.

The complaint is accompanied by a motion for preliminary injunction demanding that Ms. Manning be provided hormone therapy, permission to follow female grooming standards, and access to treatment by a medical provider qualified to treat her condition. Ms. Manning is currently serving a thirty-five year prison sentence at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth Kansas, and though the military recognizes that she has gender dysphoria requiring treatment, critical care has been withheld without any medical basis.

“The government continues to deny Ms. Manning’s access to necessary medical treatment for gender dysphoria, without which she will continue to suffer severe psychological harms,” said Chase Strangio, attorney in the ACLU Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender project and co-counsel on Ms. Manning’s case. “Such clear disregard of well-established medical protocols constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.”

Ms. Manning is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, the ACLU of Kansas and civilian defense counsel David E. Coombs. Last month, Ms. Manning’s legal team sent a letter to the DOD and Army officials demanding that she receive treatment for gender dysphoria in accordance with medical standards of care, including hormone therapy and permission to follow female grooming standards. Her treatment needs have continued to be unmet and her distress has escalated.

“I am proud to be standing with the ACLU behind Chelsea on this very important issue.” said David E. Coombs, “It is my hope that through this action, Chelsea will receive the medical care that she needs without having to suffer any further anguish.”

Gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition that requires hormone therapy and changes to gender expression, like growing hair, to live consistently with one’s gender identity as part of accepted standards of care.

Without necessary treatment, gender dysphoria can cause severe psychological distress, anxiety, and suicidality. For this reason, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and the American Psychological Association have issued policy statements that support providing treatment to prisoners diagnosed with the condition in accordance with established standards of care, as the Federal Bureau of Prisons and many state corrections agencies are already doing.

A copy of the complaint is available at:

The motion for preliminary injunction is available at:

This press release is available at:

—Free Chelsea Manning, September 24, 2014

Write to Chelsea Manning:

Mail must be addressed exactly as follows:













1) States Listen as Parents Give Rampant Testing an F
NOV. 9, 2014

2) Police Use Department Wish List When Deciding Which Assets to Seize
NOV. 9, 2014

3) Learning How Little We Know About the Brain
By James Gorman
4) Eleven Years Later, Woman’s Death Is Tied to G.M. Ignition Defect
5) What an Uncensored Letter to M.L.K. Reveals
6) Suit Accuses Banks of Role in Financing Terror Attacks
November 10, 2014

7) More Transparency, More Pay for C.E.O.s
"Companies that hire compensation consultants for the first time 'show a 7.5 percent increase in C.E.O. pay compared to other firms, and such companies where C.E.O.s get a pay boost are less likely to turn over consultants the following year.'”
November 10, 2014

By Marlene Martin

9) Fearing Bombs That Can Pick Whom to Kill
10) A Leaderless Palestinian Revolt Proves More Difficult to Curb
11) Brazil: Police Killed 11,000 People Over Five-Year Period, Report Says
12) Mexico: Protesters Burn Party Office
13) Missouri Governor Says National Guard Is Still Option in Ferguson
14) U.S. to Revise Bush Policy on Treatment of Prisoners
15) A Claim of Innocence Is No Longer a Roadblock to Parole
“'Parole commissioners, like the rest of society, have come to recognize that there are far more innocent people in prison than we had ever imagined, so they’re more receptive to that argument,' said Ron Kuby, a civil rights lawyer who represents Mr. Moses."


1) States Listen as Parents Give Rampant Testing an F
NOV. 9, 2014

ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida embraced the school accountability movement early and enthusiastically, but that was hard to remember at a parent meeting in a high school auditorium here not long ago.

Parents railed at a system that they said was overrun by new tests coming from all levels — district, state and federal. Some wept as they described teenagers who take Xanax to cope with test stress, children who refuse to go to school and teachers who retire rather than promote a culture that seems to value testing over learning.

“My third grader loves school, but I can’t get her out of the car this year,” Dawn LaBorde, who has three children in Palm Beach County schools, told the gathering, through tears. Her son, a junior, is so shaken, she said, “I have had to take him to his doctor.” She added: “He can’t sleep, but he’s tired. He can’t eat, but he’s hungry.”

One father broke down as he said he planned to pull his second grader from school. “Teaching to a test is destroying our society,” he said.

Where once these frustrations were voiced in murmurs, this year not only parents but also educators across Florida are rebelling. They have joined a national protest in which states have repealed their graduation test requirements, postponed the consequences of testing for the Common Core — national standards in more than 40 states — and rolled back the number of required exams.

In August, Education Secretary Arne Duncan added to the chorus when he wrote in a blog post that “testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools,” and that teachers needed more time to adapt to new standards and tests.

Last month, state school chiefs and the heads of large city districts were the latest to express their concerns by committing to review the panoply of tests students must take.

In Florida, which tests students more frequently than most other states, many schools this year will dedicate on average 60 to 80 days out of the 180-day school year to standardized testing. In a few districts, tests were scheduled to be given every day to at least some students.

The furor in Florida, which cuts across ideological, party and racial lines, is particularly striking for a state that helped pioneer accountability through former Gov. Jeb Bush. Mr. Bush, a possible presidential contender, was one of the first governors to introduce high-stakes testing and an A-to-F grading system for schools. He continues to advocate test-based accountability through his education foundation. Former President George W. Bush, his brother, introduced similar measures as governor of Texas and, as president, embraced No Child Left Behind, the law that required states to develop tests to measure progress.

The concerns reach well beyond first-year jitters over Florida’s version of Common Core, which is making standards tougher and tests harder. Frustrations also center on the increase this year in the number of tests ordered by the state to fulfill federal grant obligations on teacher evaluations and by districts to keep pace with the new standards. The state mandate that students use computers for standardized tests has made the situation worse because computers are scarce and easily crash.

“This is a spinning-plates act like the old ‘Ed Sullivan Show,’ ” said David Samore, the longtime principal at Okeeheelee Community Middle School in Palm Beach County. “What you are seeing now are the plates are starting to fall. Principals, superintendents, kids and teachers can only do so much. They never get to put any plates down.”

School districts across Florida have started to pare back the number of district-mandated tests. Palm Beach County announced recently that it would cut dozens of tests this year.

“This is the proverbial perfect storm of testing that has hit not only Florida but all the states,” said Alberto M. Carvalho, the influential superintendent of Miami-Dade County Schools, the fourth-largest district in the country, who was named the 2014 national superintendent of the year. “This is too much, too far, too fast, and it threatens the fabric of real accountability.”

Mr. Carvalho has joined other superintendents and school board members in the state in calling for a delay in the use of new tests, including the not yet validated Florida Standards Assessment — a Common Core variant, with tougher standards than the last assessment used — to grade the state’s schools, teachers and students.

Despite continued support in the Republican-dominated State Legislature for high-stakes testing, there are signs that Florida is headed for a showdown with opponents of an education system that many say is undermining its original mission: to improve student learning, help teachers and inform parents.

Responding to the growing outcry, Gov. Rick Scott in late August called for Education Commissioner Pam Stewart to investigate standardized tests, many of them state-mandated.

Robert A. Schaeffer, the public education director for FairTest, a standardized-test watchdog organization, said, “The numbers and consequences of these tests have driven public opinion over the edge, and politicians are scrambling to figure out how to deal with that.”Much has changed this year in Florida. As part of the federal Race to the Top grant obligation, the state will require end-of-the-year tests for every subject to help evaluate teachers whose pay and job will be tied to scores. In Miami-Dade County, there are 1,600 courses. School districts are obligated to write the course exams, but the Legislature did not give them money for the task, so districts are far behind in developing them.

On top of routine classroom tests, students face an increase in district-led diagnostic tests to keep tabs on student progress. Some teachers are testing children biweekly. This is in addition to high school Advanced Placement, SAT and ACT tests.

But there is another requirement that has made testing more difficult in Florida. The state ordered all students, including those in elementary school, to take standardized tests on computers as of this year. But again, the state did not give districts extra money for computers or technology help.

Because schools do not have computers for every student, tests are staggered throughout the day, which translates to more hours spent administering tests and less time teaching. Students who are not taking tests often occupy their time watching movies. The staggered test times also mean computer labs are not available for other students.

The overlay of this year’s tougher Common Core-like standards — which has led to drops in test scores in cities like New York — also has students in a panic over falling grades. Teachers, too, are worried about how the scores will affect their evaluations. In Florida, students who fail the test can be held back in third grade or fail to graduate from high school.

The frustration over testing has spilled across the state. The Lee County School Board led the charge in August when it voted to opt out of state-mandated standardized testing during an emotional meeting in Fort Myers. It rescinded the vote shortly after it learned of the penalties the district would face. Miami-Dade just canceled one set of district-ordered interim exams to allow teachers and students more time in the classroom.

In Gainesville, one kindergarten teacher, Susan Bowles, explained to parents on her Facebook page that she would refuse to give state-ordered diagnostic reading tests. The kindergartners were obligated to take the tests one by one on a computer. After the first go-round, Ms. Bowles calculated it would eat up three weeks of teaching time.

Her public stance galvanized even more parents and educators. Not long after her posting, Ms. Stewart, the education commissioner, suspended that particular test for younger pupils. Parents and teachers across the state began to air their grievances, detail by detail.

“The emotional effect on students, teachers and parents has been damaging; the manifestation of sadness and frustration is real,” Mr. Carvalho said of the headlong rush into more tests. “And the state should pay attention to it.”



2) Police Use Department Wish List When Deciding Which Assets to Seize
NOV. 9, 2014

The seminars offered police officers some useful tips on seizing property from suspected criminals. Don’t bother with jewelry (too hard to dispose of) and computers (“everybody’s got one already”), the experts counseled. Do go after flat screen TVs, cash and cars. Especially nice cars.

In one seminar, captured on video in September, Harry S. Connelly Jr., the city attorney of Las Cruces, N.M., called them “little goodies.” And then Mr. Connelly described how officers in his jurisdiction could not wait to seize one man’s “exotic vehicle” outside a local bar.

“A guy drives up in a 2008 Mercedes, brand new,” he explained. “Just so beautiful, I mean, the cops were undercover and they were just like ‘Ahhhh.’ And he gets out and he’s just reeking of alcohol. And it’s like, ‘Oh, my goodness, we can hardly wait.’ ”Mr. Connelly was talking about a practice known as civil asset forfeiture, which allows the government, without ever securing a conviction or even filing a criminal charge, to seize property suspected of having ties to crime. The practice, expanded during the war on drugs in the 1980s, has become a staple of law enforcement agencies because it helps finance their work. It is difficult to tell how much has been seized by state and local law enforcement, but under a Justice Department program, the value of assets seized has ballooned to $4.3 billion in the 2012 fiscal year from $407 million in 2001. Much of that money is shared with local police forces.

The practice of civil forfeiture has come under fire in recent months, amid a spate of negative press reports and growing outrage among civil rights advocates, libertarians and members of Congress who have raised serious questions about the fairness of the practice, which critics say runs roughshod over due process rights. In one oft-cited case, a Philadelphia couple’s home was seized after their son made $40 worth of drug sales on the porch. Despite that opposition, many cities and states are moving to expand civil seizures of cars and other assets. The seminars, some of which were captured on video, raise a curtain on how law enforcement officials view the practice.

From Orange County, N.Y., to Rio Rancho, N.M., forfeiture operations are being established or expanded. In September, Albuquerque, which has long seized the cars of suspected drunken drivers, began taking them from men suspected of trying to pick up prostitutes, landing seven cars during a one-night sting. Arkansas has expanded its seizure law to allow the police to take cash and assets with suspected connections to terrorism, and Illinois moved to make boats fair game under its D.W.I. laws, in addition to cars. In Mercer County, N.J., a prosecutor preaches the “gospel” that forfeiture is not just for drug arrests — cars can be seized in shoplifting and statutory rape cases as well.

“At the grass-roots level — cities, counties — they continue to be interested, perhaps increasingly so, in supplementing their budgets by engaging in the type of seizures that we’ve seen in Philadelphia and elsewhere,” said Lee McGrath, a lawyer for the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm that has mounted a legal and public relations assault on civil forfeiture.

Much of the nuts-and-bolts how-to of civil forfeiture is passed on in continuing education seminars for local prosecutors and law enforcement officials, some of which have been captured on video. The Institute for Justice, which brought the videos to the attention of The Times, says they show how cynical the practice has become and how profit motives can outweigh public safety.

In the sessions, officials share tips on maximizing profits, defeating the objections of so-called “innocent owners” who were not present when the suspected offense occurred, and keeping the proceeds in the hands of law enforcement and out of general fund budgets. The Times reviewed three sessions, one in Santa Fe, N.M., that took place in September, one in New Jersey that was undated, and one in Georgia in September that was not videotaped.

Officials offered advice on dealing with skeptical judges, mocked Hispanics whose cars were seized, and made comments that, the Institute for Justice said, gave weight to the argument that civil forfeiture encourages decisions based on the value of the assets to be seized rather than public safety. In the Georgia session, the prosecutor leading the talk boasted that he had helped roll back a Republican-led effort to reform civil forfeiture in Georgia, where seized money has been used by the authorities, according to news reports, to pay for sports tickets, office parties, a home security system and a $90,000 sports car.

In defense of the practice, Gary Bergman, a prosecutor with the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, said civil forfeiture had been distorted in news reports. “All they hear is the woman was left on the side of the road and the police drove off with her car and her money, no connection to drugs,” he told other prosecutors at the session.

“I’m not saying that that doesn’t happen — it does. It should not. But they never hear about all the people that get stopped with the drugs in their cars, in their houses, the manufacturing operations we see, all the useful things we do with the money, the equipment, vehicles. They don’t hear about that.”

In an interview, Mr. Connelly said that the Las Cruces ordinance does only what the State Supreme Court has said is permissible.

Sean D. McMurtry, the chief of the forfeiture unit in the Mercer County, N.J., prosecutor’s office, said forfeiture contributes to only a small percentage of local budgets but it is a good deterrent and works especially well against repeat offenders, such as domestic violence perpetrators who repeatedly violate a restraining order. “We’re very proud of our forfeiture operation,” he said in an interview.

But in the video, Mr. McMurtry made it clear that forfeitures were highly contingent on the needs of law enforcement. In New Jersey, the police and prosecutors are allowed to use cars, cash and other seized goods; the rest must be sold at auction. Cellphones and jewelry, Mr. McMurtry said, are not worth the bother. Flat screen televisions, however, “are very popular with the police departments,” he said.

Prosecutors boasted in the sessions that seizure cases were rarely contested or appealed. But civil forfeiture places the burden on owners, who must pay court fees and legal costs to get their property back. Many seizures go uncontested because the property is not worth the expense.

And often the first hearing is presided over not by a judge but by the prosecutor whose office benefits from the proceeds, and who has wide discretion in deciding whether to forfeit the property or return it, sometimes in exchange for a steep fine.

Mr. McMurtry said his handling of a case is sometimes determined by department wish lists. “If you want the car, and you really want to put it in your fleet, let me know — I’ll fight for it,” Mr. McMurtry said, addressing law enforcement officials on the video. “If you don’t let me know that, I’ll try and resolve it real quick through a settlement and get cash for the car, get the tow fee paid off, get some money for it.”

One criticism of civil forfeiture is that it results in widely varied penalties — one drunken driver could lose a $100,000 luxury car, while another forfeits a $2,000 clunker.

In an interview, Mr. McMurtry acknowledged that he exercises a great deal of discretion. “The first offense, if it’s not anything too serious, we’ll come up with a dollar amount, depending on the value of the car and the seriousness of the offense,” he said. “I try to come up with a dollar amount that’s not so high that they can’t afford it, but not so low that it doesn’t have an impact. If it’s a second offense, they don’t get it back.”

Prosecutors estimated that between 50 to 80 percent of the cars seized were driven by someone other than the owner, which sometimes means a parent or grandparent loses their car. In the Santa Fe video, a police officer acknowledged that the law can affect families, but expressed skepticism of owners who say they did not know their relative was running afoul of the law.

“I can’t tell you how many people have come in and said, ‘Oh, my hijito would never do that,’ ” he said, mimicking a female voice with a Spanish accent.

Clay Bolton contributed reporting from Georgia.



3) Learning How Little We Know About the Brain
By James Gorman



4) Eleven Years Later, Woman’s Death Is Tied to G.M. Ignition Defect



5) What an Uncensored Letter to M.L.K. Reveals



6) Suit Accuses Banks of Role in Financing Terror Attacks
November 10, 2014

A five-car convoy opened fire on a compound 30 miles south of Baghdad, a sneak attack that killed four American soldiers in one of the deadliest days in the Iraq war. A roadside bomb struck a United States military vehicle, severing part of a soldier’s head. And a militant group kidnapped and killed an American journalist, dumping him in the street after firing three shots into his chest.

Those acts of terrorism occurred a world away from Wall Street at the height of the Iraq war. But they now underpin a lawsuit against some of the world’s biggest banks, injecting a human element into the complex and shadowy world of international finance.

More than 200 people, primarily American service members or family members of soldiers killed in Iraq, filed the lawsuit on Monday in federal court in Brooklyn. Citing more than 50 attacks on American citizens stationed or working in Iraq during the war, the lawsuit accuses the banks of helping to finance the violent activities through their ties to Iran.

The banks — HSBC, Barclays, Standard Chartered, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Credit Suisse, European institutions that all have a major presence in New York — did not deal directly with the militants. But they have acknowledged transferring billions of dollars on behalf of Iran, which has long been suspected of funding and training the terrorist groups that carried out attacks against Americans in Iraq.

The lawsuit is not the first to link Wall Street to Iran. In suing the five banks, the plaintiffs are taking their cue from federal prosecutors, who accused those same banks of transferring money on behalf of Iran in violation of United States sanctions. The banks settled the cases over the last few years, paying hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and admitting to wrongdoing. Those admissions are now serving as a template for the private lawsuit.

But the lawsuit filed on Monday reaches far beyond the government’s claims, painting Wall Street as a sort of middleman of terror. The lawsuit blames the banks for terrorist attacks that they did not actually finance, a strategy that hinges on an elaborate and indirect link: The banks happened to do business with Iranian financial institutions that have separately financed Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group and political party suspected of aiding attacks in Iraq, as well as Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force “and other instruments of Iranian state-sponsored terrorism.”

“The defendants provided Iran with the means by which it could transfer more than $150 million to the I.R.G.C.-Q.F., Hezbollah and Special Groups, which were actively engaged in planning and perpetrating the murder and maiming of hundreds of Americans in Iraq,” the lawsuit said.

The case, which aims to show the human cost of something as impersonal as a wire transfer, represents the latest phase of a strategy among plaintiffs’ lawyers to pin blame on banks for acts of terrorism. It comes on the heels of a successful action against Arab Bank, which in September was held responsible for supporting Hamas. Similar lawsuits are pending against the Bank of China, Natwest and Crédit Lyonnais.

While collecting damages from individual terrorists would present a logistical nightmare — it is hard to imagine holding, capturing and trying a terrorist for the sake of a private civil suit — the banks that help finance illegal activity are an easier target. And so plaintiffs’ lawyers are looking at banks that may have handled tainted transactions, suing them under the Anti-Terrorism Act and arguing that they provided terrorist groups with material support. The cases are particularly lucrative because any damages awarded under the act are automatically tripled.

The lawsuit against Arab Bank offered a test case of the strategy, arguing that the bank had knowingly financed terrorists. The plaintiffs’ lawyers, some of the same lawyers who filed the case on Monday, represented the American victims of 24 Hamas attacks in and around Israel.

Arab Bank, which is based in Jordan, countered that it had properly checked all the transactions against the appropriate government blacklists, like the United States Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which lists designated terrorists. Yet in a startling verdict that seemed to open the floodgates to similar cases, a Brooklyn jury found Arab Bank liable for supporting the terrorist attacks.

That trial was for liability, not damages. The presiding judge, Brian M. Cogan, of United States District Court, is determining how to proceed with the damages portion of the trial.

The lawsuit filed on Monday faces a unique hurdle. Gary M. Osen, one of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit, acknowledged that it was unclear whether Wall Street banks could be held liable for moving money to Hezbollah, or whether only those Iranian banks that technically made the transfers were legally responsible. (One of the Iranian banks, Bank Saderat, is also named as a defendant.)

“Does it matter whether a particular bank was the physical conduit of the transfers to the terror apparatus, or is it enough that they were in a conspiracy which made that possible, and that they were, as a legal matter, deliberately indifferent to that result?” he asked.

The lawsuit cites a series of emails and conversations taken from the banks’ settlements with federal prosecutors that offer a lens into the banks’ flagrant disregard for sanctions against Iran. Among them is a reply by an executive for Standard Chartered, the big British bank, to concerns raised by an employee in New York. Referring to Americans, he reportedly said, “Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with Iranians?”

The most powerful elements of the lawsuit, however, are the stories of the victims of the Iraq war.

The sneak attack on the compound outside Baghdad in January 2007, the lawsuit said, was the work of a terrorist group “trained and armed by Iran’s Qods Force with Hezbollah’s assistance.” Once inside the compound, the group sprayed bullets and lobbed grenades, killing several American soldiers, including 20-year-old Johnathon M. Millican, who jumped on one of the grenades. Mr. Millican’s widow and father joined the lawsuit, along with the families of three other soldiers killed in that attack and a surviving soldier who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The journalist, Steven Vincent, was kidnapped and shot in August 2005. His widow, mother and father are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Christopher M. Hake was on his second tour of duty in Iraq in March 2008 when an Iranian-manufactured explosive device went off near his vehicle and killed him in 2008.

“We knew there was a risk involved, but, of course, everyone thinks it’s not going to happen to you or your family,” said Kelli Hake, his widow. Their son, now 8, was 1-and-a-half when his father died.

When the plaintiffs’ lawyers approached her about the terrorism-financing lawsuit, she said, “It made me think about it: who’s financing it and who made it happen.”



7) More Transparency, More Pay for C.E.O.s
"Companies that hire compensation consultants for the first time 'show a 7.5 percent increase in C.E.O. pay compared to other firms, and such companies where C.E.O.s get a pay boost are less likely to turn over consultants the following year.'”
November 10, 2014

“It’s very seldom that publishing compensation accomplishes much for the shareholders. No C.E.O. looks at a proxy statement and comes away saying, ‘I should be paid less.’ ”

Warren Buffett made that contrarian argument earlier this year, at the annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway, about the steady push for companies to disclose compensation in increasingly specific detail in the name of transparency.

It was an intriguing, counterintuitive point, but largely anecdotal.

Now, a study by three professors at the University of Cambridge may help prove Mr. Buffett’s assertion.

The study shows in devastating detail how compensation consultants — which use the increasingly available public data on compensation to advise boards on how much to pay chief executives — are helping to ratchet up the pay for the nation’s top executives.

Companies have long tried to “benchmark” the compensation of their executives to that of their peers.

But as the cottage industry of compensation consultancy has emerged — along with more detailed information about salaries and bonuses — the increase in compensation has not slowed. In fact, quite the opposite has happened.

“We consistently find evidence that supports the argument that compensation consultants are hired to justify higher C.E.O. pay to the board, shareholders, and other stakeholders,” wrote the study’s authors, Jenny Chu, Jonathan Faasse and P. Raghavendra Rau.

In theory, the hiring of compensation consultants — and the publication of compensation plans publicly — should have curbed the rise in executive pay. The various headline-grabbing lists of compensation for chief executives are seemingly meant to shame boards — and the armada of consultants around them — to restrain their largess.

But according to the study, it’s the other way around: Companies that hire compensation consultants for the first time “show a 7.5 percent increase in C.E.O. pay compared to other firms, and such companies where C.E.O.s get a pay boost are less likely to turn over consultants the following year.”

One of the study’s authors cited the jump in pay for Michael Dell, founder and chief executive of Dell, after it hired a compensation consultant in 2011. (His pay quadrupled though it may be hard to ascribe it solely to the consultant.) Similarly, the C.E.O. of Public Storage’s pay multiplied after hiring a consultant.

Worse, allowing a chief executive to hire a compensation consultant instead of leaving the task to the company’s board led to a 13 percent increase in pay, the study’s authors found.

Why in the world is a chief executive in charge of hiring a compensation consultant? That’s a good question, but it happens more than you would imagine.

The study, which examined more than 1,000 United States companies from 2006 to 2012, shows that compensation consultants have an increasing influence inside boardrooms.

In 2009, the Securities and Exchange Commission changed the rules concerning compensation consultants because they were worried about their influence and suspected them of conflicts. Many of the consultants, like Towers Watson, Mercer and Aon Hewitt, offered multiple services in addition to consulting on compensation. As a result, the S.E.C. theorized that the disclosure of consulting fees might help prevent the consultants from trying to curry favor with management by helping to lift pay in the hope of receiving more contracts for other services.

But the study’s authors say they found “that the S.E.C. rule change didn’t work as designed, because both company management and pay consultancies have found ways to circumvent the intent of the new rules.”

Indeed, a cottage industry of boutique compensation consultants sprang up in the wake of the new rule, in part because then the companies do not have to disclose consulting fees if the firm does not provide other services. Some Mercer partners left to start Compensation Advisory Partners, and Towers Watson “announced that it would partner with a newly created spinoff, Pay Governance L.L.C.,” the authors wrote.

All of which brings us back to Mr. Buffett’s larger point about the disclosure of the compensation plans in the first place.

Is transparency a good thing? In most cases, it is hard to argue against the benefit it provides.

But when consultants and others use that transparency as a weapon in a compensation arms race, questions, even uncomfortable ones, must be raised.

Let’s be honest, compensation at the top level is rarely based on a true marketplace. Unless a rival company tries to poach a chief executive, it is hard to determine exactly what they should be paid.

Most employers seek to hire people at the lowest possible cost while still paying them enough to do the best job possible and keep them from leaving. It’s a delicate balance. But most companies seek to maximize whatever money they devote toward compensation.

That is rarely how boards think about it. For them, the best chief executive makes the most money.

“How do you tell your shareholders you have a great C.E.O.?” Mr. Rau said. “’For proof, we pay him peanuts.’ They never say they do that.”

So between the consultants and disclosure of all this information about compensation, the likelihood is that pay will rise at an ever greater pace.

“American shareholders are paying a significant price because they get to look at that proxy statement each year,” Mr. Buffett said.

He told a story about the time he ran Salomon Brothers. “At Salomon, everyone was dissatisfied with their pay, and they got enormous amounts. They were disappointed because they looked at others, and it drove them crazy.”

Mr. Buffett’s business partner, Charlie Munger, chimed in: “I would say that envy is doing the country harm.”

Andrew Ross Sorkin is the editor at large of DealBook. Twitter: @andrewrsorkin



By Marlene Martin

Sadly, our good friend and comrade in struggle Darby Tillis—the first exonerated Illinois death row prisoner in the modern era of the death penalty, passed away on Sunday November 10, at the age of 71. He was a steadfast fighter for abolition. After being released from prison in 1987, along with his co-defendant Perry Cobb, Darby spent the entire rest of his life fighting for justice.

We will miss Darby terribly. To many of us, he was a teacher, someone who knew and could explain the criminal justice system from the inside out, and who worked passionately to expose it. Working alongside Darby in the Campaign to End the Death Penalty was an honor.

His full name was Jesse “Darby” Tillis, but we all knew him as Darby.
It was so easy to grow fond of Darby, even with all his quirks and bouts of stubbornness—qualities that must have helped him survive an unjust imprisonment on death row. Darby stood out in every way (it wasn’t just his name that was unique!) There was, for example, his signature attire: He always dressed all in black, often wearing a black cape, even in the summer, along with a black cap and black alligator boots. Instead of using the word prison, he would talk about the “the penitentiary for the poor.” Referring to the corruption in Chicago’s Cook County, he would instead call it “Crook County.”

Darby was certainly one of a kind. For a long time, he drove around in an old limousine, and across the side, he had scrawled, “Thou shall not kill.” But Darby was no joke, and none of what he did was for laughs. He wanted to shock people into paying attention. This is why he once strode through downtown Chicago in an orange prison jumpsuit, complete with chains, carrying a bullhorn calling for abolition—he called these walks “The Death Row Shuffle.” He would do anything to draw attention to this cause. He was all guts, and spit fire.

I heard Darby speak countless times over the years. In his characteristic low, raspy voice, Darby could hold audiences spellbound, telling them about how he had been “kidnapped, used and abused by the Illinois criminal justice system, and how he had been tried five times, “more than any other person in the history of the U.S.” (Actually, along with Darby and Perry, this unique distinction also belongs to the Scottsboro Boys, African American youth from Jim Crow Alabama who were falsely accused of rape.)

I never heard Darby say he spent “nine years” in prison, or “just over nine years.” He always gave people the precise amount of time, each time he spoke: “nine years, one month and 17 days.” Why? I’m not sure, but I think that he wanted to make it clear he knew exactly what had been stolen from him.

He was bitter about the years taken from him—how couldn’t he be—and you could feel that in him. And he wanted people to know those precious moments of his life—each and every day that was stolen—were times that he wasn’t with his mom when she passed or wasn’t able to help his daughter when she needed him. He wanted people to feel that—to try to have some understanding of what having part of their lives stolen is like. And he also wanted to make it known that he was keeping score.

Darby had been sent to prison by Judge Thomas Maloney, who was later found guilty of taking bribes to fix cases and was sent to prison for 15 years. Darby liked to include this fact in all of his presentations, too, since it’s so rare for a judge, prosecutors or police to face any consequences for sending the wrong people to prison or death row. At the end of one interview, Darby asked a journalist how it could be that the system was still doing the same exact thing it did to him all those many years ago—sending the wrong people to prison. He believed a big part of the reason it continued was because those who rule over the system never face any consequences for the miscarriages of justice they help to arrange.

I first heard Darby speak at a forum put on by the International Socialist Organization in the early 1990s. The title of the panel was, “The War on Poverty”—Darby was asked to speak on the connection of the criminal justice system. I was blown away by what I heard.

He was a street preacher, and he had the cadence, confidence and passion of the profession, but he also had something very unique, which was a relentless determination to hold the criminal injustice system accountable for the wrongs it had done to him and to so many others, and that it was still doing. He taught me, along with many others in the abolitionist community, so much about the unfair workings of the criminal justice system and its deep-seated racism.

Darby was at ground zero in the fight to win the abolition of the death penalty in Illinois, which we achieved in 2011. He also traveled on our national speaking tours on many occasions, rousing the audience and imploring people to join him in the fight against this injustice.

He talked tough, and he was, but he was also deeply compassionate, caring and gentle. I don’t think there was a single time that I talked with Darby when he didn’t first ask how my family was.

He befriended family members who had loved ones in jail. He spent time with Martina Correia and Virginia Davis, the sister and mother of Troy Davis, the innocent Georgia death row prisoner who was executed in 2011. Darby drove to Atlanta to be with them for one of Troy’s last execution dates. He sat with them, prayed with them and gave them comfort in an impossible time.

When Mark Clements, a victim of Chicago police torture, was finally released from Illinois prison after 28 years, he said it was Darby who took him under his wing, mentored him and looked after him. They became very fond of one another and spent a lot of time together. As Mark says, “He supported me—he encouraged me to stand up against wrong.” Losing Darby leaves a “hole in my heart which will never be able to be filled,” Mark said.

Several times, when Darby spoke at the Campaign to End the Death Penalty’s annual conventions, he paid tribute to the work of the campaign, speaking thoughtfully and poetically about our accomplishments and why it was so important to stay the course.

It was through the Campaign that Darby would meet Cathy McMillan, who was fighting on behalf of her brother. Darby spent the last several years close to Cathy, whom he adored.

In later years, even when it was difficult for him to walk, he would still come out for events.

At the final big rally for Troy Davis in Atlanta, Darby was with us among the 3,000-person rally. He spoke to the audience and performed a rousing song he wrote for Troy Davis, titled “Let’s Fight Together.” The song pleaded with the authorities to do the right thing and free an innocent man. The lyrics were beautiful and the music upbeat, holding out the promise that we could win. Darby was incredibly talented as a songwriter and harmonica player, and he absolutely loved the blues. You couldn’t go on a road trip with Darby without him popping in the CD he recorded during the trip.

One of the last times I saw him was when he spoke out at a rally in Chicago to call for justice for Trayvon Martin. Darby could always be counted on to help in the struggle.

After the decades-long fight to win abolition in Illinois, Darby was careful to point out that the victory shouldn’t just be laid at the feet of Gov. George Ryan, who first put a moratorium on the death penalty and then cleared death row by granting clemency to every prisoner. Nor should the lawyers and journalists get the credit solely—he reminded us that it was also pivotal what activists did. This is how he put it when I asked him about how we won abolition for an article for Socialist Worker newspaper:

“We worked hard to get the ear of Governor Ryan, we got exonerated and family members out there, and he heard their pleas. We kept on and got the ears of the politicians to see our point, and as a result, we have destroyed this dinosaur. It shows that when we stand together and don't give up, we can win.

It's so different now compared to when we first started. People used to look at us like we were the culprits. Now they see us, and they want to stand with us. They say, "Hey, can I hold that picket sign?" and "Keep up the good work." People can see that the death penalty is senseless--it won't cure the ills in society. They can see the corrupt and flawed nature of the system.”

I asked Darby what we abolitionists should say in a situation where the guilt of the defendant is certain. Here’s how he responded:

“I used to say I would kill him myself if I saw him do it. But I have had a change of heart on that. You have to look beyond the person to understand why they did what they did. In some of these communities in Chicago, they're so barren, so desolate--they're like a desert. When I go there, I feel nothing but pain and hurt. It feels deadly--there's such a lack of resources.

When you grow up and live in a community like that, you become subhuman, because you live like you're in a combat zone. Police are cruising around, and young men are out on the street with nothing to do in miserable circumstances. Just like the soldiers coming back from Iraq who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, so do the people in these desolate, crime-ridden, cop-patrolled communities.

They're battlegrounds, and you don't hear any of the politicians saying anything about it. These problems need to seriously be addressed and not just by a program or two--it needs to be deeper than that.”

The article ended with a quote from Darby giving instructions to activists about what’s next: "We have to align ourselves with people who want to build a safe and sound society. We've shown people what we can do when we come together. We can get justice if we work hard.”

One of the best ways we can remember Darby is to bring a bit of his spirit into our fight for justice today. One of the last struggles he was concerned about was that of Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed, who faces an execution date in Texas on January 14. He had befriended Sandra Reed, the mother of Rodney and spoke of her as “an angel who was wounded by a system that doesn’t give a damn about poor, colored people.” Darby wasn’t able to attend the Campaign’s convention this year in Texas, but he was there in spirit the whole time.

To learn more about the fight for Rodney, please go to our website at

Darby would be proud to know we will carry on with this fight, standing tall, and feeling him holding us up from behind.

On the passing of Darby Tillis - a true warrior for justice! - See more at:
On the passing of Darby Tillis - a true warrior for justice! - See more at:



9) Fearing Bombs That Can Pick Whom to Kill



10) A Leaderless Palestinian Revolt Proves More Difficult to Curb



11) Brazil: Police Killed 11,000 People Over Five-Year Period, Report Says



12) Mexico: Protesters Burn Party Office



13) Missouri Governor Says National Guard Is Still Option in Ferguson



14) U.S. to Revise Bush Policy on Treatment of Prisoners



15) A Claim of Innocence Is No Longer a Roadblock to Parole
“'Parole commissioners, like the rest of society, have come to recognize that there are far more innocent people in prison than we had ever imagined, so they’re more receptive to that argument,' said Ron Kuby, a civil rights lawyer who represents Mr. Moses."






















No comments: