Gray Panthers of San Francisco
October 2007 Newsletter
Victory: Attainable bail set for SF8
Lynne Stewart: “...In my 45 year experience as an activist and as an attorney, they just don’t set bail in a case that involves the murder of a cop—not in a police state. They especially don’t set bail when the defendants are activist black men.”
The SF8 are former Black Panthers and activists, now in their 50s to 70s, who were charged with killing a police officer 36 years ago, based on a confession that police in New Orleans extracted by torture. The charges were thrown out shortly afterwards, because the evidence was obtained by torture, but they are now being tried on the same charges and the same evidence. Read more about the case on the Gray Panthers' SF8 page.
Lynne's complete statement is reprinted here:
"After a lazy summer, I was called back to action by the fact of the tremendous victory that was won by the lawyers for the San Francisco 8, in state court in San Francisco, when the Judge against the strong opposition of the government (California Attorney General Jerry Brown (!)) set bail. In my 45 year experience as an activist and as an attorney, they just don't set bail in a case that involves the murder of a cop -not in the police state . They especially don't set bail when the defendants are activist black men."
"To capsulize the case “the state has accused 8 men, all with Black Panther, or other activist ties in the past, almost 40 years after the event. For all of them except Herman and Jalil, they have lived public lives for nearly all of that time. The crucial point, I believe, is that the state's proof consists of confessions made under torture which were disallowed as coerced and unreliable in legal proceedings in the 1970s. Now, with repression ever looming, they are resurrecting this case to feed the salacious police state, the racism that is flourishing unabated AND, most importantly, to legitimize torture on the home front."
"I am assuming your support of the San Francisco 8 and I am asking you to go one step further. We all know how to demonstrate and leaflet and hold events. This is a call from me to all of you, who are able, to act above and beyond by committing your Property and to stand as surety for this bail or to help with the expenses to secure property commitments from others."
"It is a tremendous advantage to be free on bail during trial. It enables one to live in a positive, healthy manner and to ORGANIZE. It communicates to the jury and the public that they have nothing to fear and should do absolute justice."
"I have spoken with members of the Defense Committee and I can assure you that there is virtually no risk involved. (Indeed, even the Judge so stated when he set the amounts). All of the 6 men have deep family and community roots. Your property will be pledged without any cost to you and minimal hassle. While smaller properties can be used and put together as a package, the Committee's best hope is for California progressives who invested wisely (!) back in the day to come forward. I can tell you that my husband, Ralph Poynter, has offered the equity ($100,000) in the country house and property he owns in upstate NY. As for me, as Judge Koeltl said at sentencing, I am "destitute"but only financially. I still have the energy and the will to try to organize, and yes, guilt trip everyone into taking a deep breath and doing something concrete, to demonstrate commitment."
"In 1983, in one of my earliest political trials the wife of my client was held as a grand jury resister. She was 8 ++ months pregnant and to enable her to deliver the baby in relative freedom and spend the months necessary to nurture her child the Judge set a bail. Ralph put up that bail to the frantic concern of his silent partners. My client was ultimately acquitted and this summer at a Boston event celebrating the Rosenberg fund, we met the baby who was born 24 years ago and is now a vibrant and lovely young woman."
"Back when our hemlines were much shorter and our hair much longer, Oscar Brown,jr sang:
Brother, where are you?
Times haven't really changed. We still need to stand up for the political brothers and sisters who are caught up in the legal system. Give them a fighting chance by allowing them to deal with the case from the outside. We need to answer the brothers' call."
"I will. Will you ?"
Lynne F. Stewart