Update on the San Francisco 8

This limited edition silkscreened poster was created and signed by the great Black Panther artist Emory Douglas to raise funds for the San Francisco 8 and the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights. Learn how you can purchase an original or an offset version at www.freethesf8.org/Emory_Douglas_poster.html.

by Free the SF 8 Committee

The first of several prosecution witnesses appeared in closed sessions the week of July 14 in the San Francisco 8 case. These “conditional exams” of five witnesses who are old and in poor health are taking place because they may not be available at trial. They are testifying in advance of the preliminary hearing scheduled for Sept. 8.

Jack Girot, a former San Francisco police officer, was in court for two days and was questioned about a “stolen bicycle” report filed at the Ingleside Police Station in 1971. The notes he took are lost or destroyed. The report originally prepared by Girot was “enhanced” by unknown person or persons with additional information not provided by Girot. He could not identify the people who made the report.

An intra-departmental memo co-authored by Inspectors Erdalatz and McCoy puts an additional Black male in the police station at the time of the stolen bicycle report with no reference to the source of the information. Girot could not identify any of the defendants in the case from either their current photographs or photos from 1971.

In 1973, when three of the SF 8 – John Bowman, now deceased, Ruben Scott and Harold Taylor – were arrested and tortured for several days in New Orleans, San Francisco Police Department Inspectors Frank McCoy and Ed Erdelatz were on site at the New Orleans police department and appeared to be directing their interrogation and torture, using methods much the same as those used decades later in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

It was Erdalatz and McCoy that John Bowman referred to shortly before his death when he said: “The same people who tried to kill me in 1973 are the same people who are here today, in 2005, trying to destroy me. I mean it literally. I mean there were people from the forces of the San Francisco Police Department who participated in harassment, torture and my interrogation in 1973. [It is] these same people I have to come in contact with, I have to go before courts in front of, [those] who are asking me the same questions that they interrogated and tortured me for. I have to be confronted with these people and none of these people have ever been brought to trial. None of these people have ever been charged with anything. None of these people have ever been questioned about that!”

The next exams are scheduled for Aug. 22 and Aug. 25-28.

Judge Moscone had Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim appear unshackled in court for the first time, when neither the SF County Sheriff, who runs the jail and security in the courthouse, nor the prosecutors objected. Herman and Jalil are the only members of the SF 8 still incarcerated.

“The same people who tried to kill me in 1973 are the same people who are here today, in 2005, trying to destroy me.”

John Bowman

The California state prosecutors office has not allowed the defense to see the text of a proposed agreement to return Herman and Jalil to New York state for their parole hearings. The delays make it unlikely that they can have their legally guaranteed hearings before the September preliminary hearing in the SF 8 case. Prosecutors are saying that until the extradition papers are signed, they remain confidential and will not be presented to Judge Moscone to sign.

Judge Philip Moscone had, on May 22, signed an order allowing Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim to return to New York state for their hearings. All parties agreed that the move would be temporary; Herman and Jalil waived their rights to fight extradition back to California.

This is a vindictive and mean-spirited procedural delay. Strong arguments were made to guarantee Herman and Jalil’s right to “pursue their liberty interests” and have parole hearings. Both have served over 30 years in prison as model prisoners. Both were targeted originally by COINTELPRO as members of the Black Panther Party.

New York attorney Bob Boyle argued in a declaration to the San Francisco court that if the men remain in California, “they would be denied their parole hearing for years.” In a subsequent interview, he added:

“The state waited 35 years to bring these spurious criminal charges. Now these charges are being used to deny these men parole hearings to which they are entitled. Whatever concerns the government has can be overcome by a simple modification of the extradition order. All Herman and Jalil are asking for is an opportunity to attend their hearings.”

How you can help

An Open Letter to Attorney General Jerry Brown, the person who has the power to stop the prosecution of the SF 8, follows. It references the International Call, initiated by Desmond Tutu, which is posted on the SF 8 website at www.freethesf8.org/international_call_SF8.html.

This is what we are asking:

1. Please ask influential leaders you may have access to or other progressive people you know to sign on to the letter.

2. Please do NOT send the letter to Jerry Brown.

3. Please DO send the names of the people who wish to sign to jsiff@sbcglobal.net to be compiled for the committee.

4. Please include the name and title or descriptive phrase by which the person wishes to be identified.

July and August are the critical months for this project. We want to be prepared to deliver and publicize the results of this support for the onset of the preliminary hearing on Sept. 8.

Open Letter to Attorney General Jerry Brown:

“Drop the Charges Against the SF 8!

“I am writing to join with Nobel Peace Laureates Desmond Tutu and Mairead Corrigan Maguire, as well as Cynthia McKinney, Danny Glover, Cindy Sheehan and others in an international call to drop the charges against the SF 8.

“The eight are elders and activists formerly associated with the Black Panther Party who have devoted their lives to serving their communities. Four are local to California. Richard Brown and Richard O’Neal are from San Francisco and have been known and deeply respected in social service circles for over 20 years. Hank Jones and Ray Boudreaux are well known and loved community activists in the Los Angeles area.

“Prosecution of the case against these men is now over 37 years old. Although this is a California state and not a county prosecution, the cost of the case, which is in the millions, is being borne by the City of San Francisco at the precise moment when vital services are in jeopardy due to lack of funds.

“Previous attempts to prosecute these men in the 1970s were dismissed when it was revealed that so-called ‘confessions’ were the product of torture by the New Orleans police department.

“The SF Board of Supervisors has already gone on record as opposing torture. I call on all officials to do so as well, to reject prosecution based on the results of torture, and to do everything in your power to re-establish the priority of serving the needs of the communities of San Francisco and the state of California.

“People in the Bay Area have a proud history of defending human rights and social justice. I urge Attorney General Jerry Brown to drop the case against the SF 8 now.”

Please support these brothers by sending a donation. Make checks payable to CDHR/Agape and mail to the following address or donate on line: Free the SF8, Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR), P.O. Box 90221, Pasadena, CA 91109, (415) 226-1120, FreetheSF8@riseup.net, www.freethesf8.org/donate.html.