Yesterday was supposed to be the first of two bail reduction hearings for the San Francisco 8 -- former members of an armed offshoot of the Black Panthers, the Black Liberation Army, who were charged in January for crimes supposedly committed 36 years ago, including acts of conspiracy and the murder of a police officer, Sgt. John Young. They’re being held on bail from $3 to $5 million each.
The case has been ongoing ever since three members of the BLA were arrested in 1973 in New Orleans. They "confessed" to the killing and other crimes after being tortured by investigators. From the Chronicle :
New Orleans officers stripped the men, blindfolded them, beat them and covered them in blankets soaked in boiling water. They also used electric prods on their genitals, court records show.
In another January article from the Chronicle, Deputy Attorney General Maggie Krell was quoted as saying, "This case is about conspiracy and cold-blooded murder ... nothing more.”
However, activist groups are arguing this is about injustice and civil rights violations since the same coerced confessions from 1973 were used to charge the eight men in January. Supporters, of course, believe in their innocence despite evidence that may connect one of the eight to the crime scene. A Black Panther Party Legacy and Alumni newsletter provides positive bios of the suspects and claims the case is "a continuation of COINTELPRO’s attack on the Black liberation movement.” Even Herman Bell and Anthony Bottom, who are currently serving life sentences for cop killings in New York, are written up as good guys who were framed.
The case of the San Francisco 8, which shares similarities with the Stanley "Tookie” Williams case, is complicated. Supporters are crying injustice while the cops are chalking this one up as a victory. But, if the information was originally gathered through the unethical conduct of coercion, should it invalidate the case altogether? And if these men have turned their lives around as the Black Panther Party newsletter suggests, then at which point do we forgive them for their actions, that is, if they’re found to be guilty?
Until hard evidence is produced, I’m gonna remain a skeptic on this one and watch it unfold. Though this issue’s received very limited coverage (you can’t even Wikipedia it), I’m sure it’s gonna gain heat as it continues.
The new bail reduction hearing will be held at 9 a.m. on Monday, June 18th at 850 Bryant St. -- Zoneil Maharaj
Related: "Echoes of the Revolution."
Top photo courtesy cdhrsupport.org