Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Update on the San Francisco 8 Political Prisoner's Case

Update on the San Francisco 8 Political Prisoner's Case

A very large, well-attended rally preceded today’s packed San Francisco 8 court hearing. Four of the SF 8 - Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Hank Jones and Francisco Torres - joined in leading chants outside the 850 Bryant Street courthouse along with supporters from all over the Bay Area and from other West Coast cities.

The main defense arguments focused on the prosecutors’ request to conduct “conditional exams” of 5 witnesses who are old and in poor health and so may not be available at trial. There are legal bases for their testifying in advance of the preliminary hearing and trial. But the defense is arguing that they have full rights to court-ordered discovery pertaining to these witnesses allowing them to prepare to cross examine them – particularly exculpatory evidence.

Judge Philip Moscone seemed to indicate that the standards for these exams would have to meet trial standards, and that he will address the related discovery issues, but would not issue a written ruling until next week’s court hearing.

Defense subpoenas make clear reference to missing exculpatory evidence including “negative comparisons” of latent prints by FBI fingerprint examiners from 1971 and 1975. “I believe that the FBI has been deeply involved in the investigation of the Ingleside murder,” according to defense attorney Chuck Bourdon, who represents Francisco Torres. Bourdon also thinks that all FBI files “have not yet been provided.”

Several agencies made reports of negative results over the years. The only positive identification of any latent print (the same latent print) was made recently by an ‘expert’ that was previously disciplined for making false fingerprint reports.

Stuart Hanlon, representing Herman Bell in this case, referenced his previous defense of Geronimo Ji-Jaga Pratt - a major target of FBI’s COINTELPRO program. Geronimo “was falsely imprisoned for 27 years by the withholding of FBI exculpatory evidence,” argued Hanlon. “This request demanding full discovery and particularly FBI evidence is more than reasonable in light of this history. This case is no different,” Hanlon pointed out.

“The FBI and COINTELPRO are relevant to this case as COINTELPRO is a continuum through today’s Phoenix Taskforce,” argued Jalil Muntaqim’s lawyer, Daro Inouye. The Phoenix Taskforce is a multi-agency force that is difficult to formally define.

It is known that it includes the US Attorney, the FBI, local police agencies including the SFPD, and the California Department of Justice. It is the umbrella organization that has reopened this case, empaneled various Grand Jury investigations and is overall responsible for this 37-year old Panther prosecution.

Dave Druliner, the lead State prosecutor, replied to defense references to COINTELPRO dismissively as “an aura that exists out there,” and “just something that the defense brings up from time to time.” Apparently congressional investigations revealing the illegality of the FBI's COINTELPRO program in the 1970s are part of that aura.

Next week’s hearing will also address requests from Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim to be returned to New York State between now and the start of the preliminary hearing in this case (likely to be scheduled for early September), in order to pursue their parole hearings. Judge Moscone indicated a willingness to agree to these requests if Herman and Jalil were to waive their rights to be present at any interim hearings in San Francisco.

The next hearing in the San Francisco 8 case is scheduled for Tuesday, April 29th at 9:30 am in Department 26, 3rd floor, 850 Bryant Street.
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Pasadena, CA 91109
(415) 226-1120

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