SF 8: Paying the costs

Pack the courtroom Thursday, Feb. 18, 9 a.m., in Dept. 22, 850 Bryant St., San Francisco, to support the only remaining SF 8 defendant, Francisco Torres, who will be in the courtroom! Dismiss Cisco’s case, a 36-year-old case based on torture!

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

SF-8+-Harold-Taylor-Francisco-Torres-Richard-Brown-Soffiyah-Elijah-Richard-ONeal-Hank-Jones-Eric-Mar-Ray-Boudreaux-celebrate-dropping-chgs-070709-Ella-Hill-Hutch-by-Scott-Braley, SF 8: Paying the costs, Behind Enemy Lines As the once front page story of the San Francisco 8 case winds down, bills are becoming due.

The San Francisco 8 refers to eight former members of the Black Panther Party, charged with involvement in a 1971 homicide.

There is little doubt now that the case was initiated more for political reasons than legal ones. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office thought so little of the case that it declined to prosecute. California’s attorney general opted to try it instead.

Almost from day one, the case began unraveling. A few guys took plea bargains to relatively minor charges, resulting in probation. Within months, charges against five of the men were dismissed. Only one still has charges pending.

The men – Herman Bell, Ray Boudreaux, Henry Jones, Jalil Muntaquim, Richard O’Neal, Harold Taylor and Francisco Torres – now middle aged and older, stood firm and refused to flip on each other. Some of them were tortured back in 1975, when charges were originally dismissed. (One man, John Bowman, died before trial.)

Why this case? Initially, it is the extraordinary resources and papers made available to local jurisdictions by the federal government in the aftermath of 9/11; secondly, California Attorney General Edmund “Jerry” Brown was anxious to run for governor and thought this case would prove the right vehicle.

But what was sensational in 1971 loses some of its punch in 2001. The newest headlines from the case aren’t what the cash strapped state wants to hear.

San Francisco’s Public Defenders Office has filed for $2 million in reimbursements owed by the City for its defense of the men. They are seeking that sum because the state, not San Francisco County, took up the prosecution of the 36-year-old case.

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