A narrative of two American slaves

Frederick-Douglass-in-Blue-Suit-art-by-Michael-Aghahowa, A narrative of two American slaves, Behind Enemy Lines
Truth – I had difficulty finding images of Douglass created by Black people! I was excited to find striking photos of bronze sculptures of Frederick Douglass, only to find none were sculpted by Black people – we’re even locked out of our own creative expression of ourselves! But I persisted and found young Michael Aghahowa, who is now attending graduate school at Mass Art in Massachusetts and says: “Frederick Douglass is a real bad-ass and I like to imagine that the most photographed man of the 1800s got fly when he could. That’s why I painted him in this blue suit inspired by Django. When I look at this painting, I feel like I’m being told history as it is, not fabricated, because that’s what Frederick Douglass did. As I unlearn some history and gain knowledge on the real stories of people who helped shape this country, I find myself being reminded that I can do anything I put my mind to!” – Art: Michael Aghahowa

by Frederick Douglass and Ronnie Lashan Winn

“Constitution of the United States, Amendment XIII Slavery

“Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

My name is Ronnie Lashan Winn. I was captured on June 21, 1999, in Vallejo, California, for the homicide of a white man. A crime I did not commit. I am now a constitutional slave serving a 27-years-to-life sentence. 

From the beginning of my capture, I entertained a deep conviction that slavery would not always be able to hold me within its foul embrace. In the darkest hours of my life in slavery, this living word of faith and spirit of hope departed not from me but remained like ministering angels to cheer me through the gloom. 

Initially, I was broken in body, soul and spirit. My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eyes died. The dark night of slavery closed in upon me and behold a man transformed into a brute! 

Now, my long-crushed spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place. I am now resolved that no matter how long I might remain a slave in physical form, the day has passed forever when I could be a slave in fact. 

I did not hesitate to let it be known of me that the white men who expected to succeed in imprisoning and whipping me must also succeed in killing me. You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall now see how a slave was made a man.

As mentioned previously, I was captured in Vallejo, California, County of Solano, as a free man and imprisoned into a slave. It is extremely apparent that racism is a functioning apparatus within the halls of justice in Solano County courts. 

This history of racism within the courts extends all the way back to before the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. I’m referring to the infamous Dred Scott decision of 1857; in that decision, the pronouncement was given by United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Taney. His words were, “A Black man has no rights that a White man is bound to respect.” 

Dred-Scott-cartoon-art-by-Daryl-Skelton, A narrative of two American slaves, Behind Enemy Lines
The more you learn about the truth of the founding of this country, you can no longer deny that prisoners are modern-day slaves – and why the system relies on our ignorance and our silence. – Cartoon: Daryl Skelton

For a Black man to be accused was to be convicted and to be convicted was to be punished. To escape punishment was to escape accusation; and very few Black men had the fortune to do either, under the overseership of the Solano County Superior Court.

The courts in Solano County concerning my wrongful conviction are cruel enough to inflict the severest punishment, artful enough to descend to the lowest trickery and obdurate enough to be insensible to the voice of a reproving conscience.

The recent killings of unarmed Black men by white police officers are not treated as a crime by the courts in this country. However, it should be taken into account the emotional turbulence generated in whites when they are confronted by a Black person accused of a crime, especially when that accusation involves a white person as the victim. 

In the old days, it was a common saying even among little white boys, that it was worth a half-cent to kill a nigger and a half-cent to bury one. It appears that old aphorism is accurate in these modern-day police killings throughout the United States.

The Dred Scott decision of 1856 has been resuscitated and resurrected with the passage of California’s Three Strikes Law. This law is lynching Black men and perpetuating genocide upon the Black community.

There appears to be a fostered belief that Blacks have a higher tolerance for pain than whites and are more peacefully unaffected by deprivation. 

True it is that rude hardships have become the norm, and it seems that the tolerance of Blacks for suffering in America is exceeded only by their unswerving allegiance to the country as a place to live and die.

Before the Civil War, it was against the law to teach a slave how to read or write. Fortunately, for this slave, that is not my dilemma. I’ve ferociously read hundreds of books to assist myself in extricating me from this web of injustice. 

Nonetheless, it is an arduous challenge because the legal structures that are in place continue to perpetuate the diabolical racism pronounced in the Dred Scott decision, “A Black man has no rights that a White man is bound to respect.” 

The continuous legislation of oppressive laws aimed and directed at a particular portion of society is the primary factor fueling slavery, bondage, servitude and subjugation in the United States. Better known as mass incarceration, this system of mass slavery has had me within is foul embrace for almost 16 years, and it’s extremely difficult for me to pry open its ferocious jaws of injustice.

I refuse to capitulate now or ever! The Dred Scott decision of 1856 has been resuscitated and resurrected with the passage of California’s Three Strikes Law. This law is lynching Black men and perpetuating genocide upon the Black community.

The Constitution of the United States is revered as the greatest and noblest document ever composed. However, we must never relinquish the thought that, at the time of the Constitution’s completion on Sept. 17, 1887, slavery was an established international tradition. 

Many white men who become judges have been reared in a poisonous atmosphere. Racist emotions have been a pollution tainting those with white skin, giving generations upon generations a confirmation of the religion of the white skin’s entitlement to privilege. 

My concern long has been the white judges who, in their large numbers, are called upon daily to preside over the trials of Black defendants accused of crimes. Are they really qualified for such a sociological task, only incidentally mixed with law? If so, what are the peculiar circumstances that define their competence? 

What magic abolishes color in their eyes and gives them instant objectivity and a license to analyze human foibles entirely divorced from the historical truth of racism? How indeed does one annul one’s heritage and that of one’s forefathers in this land or the land from which their family came?

The courts and its officers intentionally eviscerated and withheld exculpatory medical evidence that would have completely exonerated me.

Practically all who participated in my slavery and wrongful conviction are white. This includes the people in the house where I was brutally attacked. This includes the investigators called to the scene of the crime and also the lawyers, judges and jury in the courtroom. 

All officers of the court knew before trial that I was innocent and not the cause of the white man’s death. The courts and its officers intentionally eviscerated and withheld exculpatory medical evidence that would have completely exonerated me.

Because I was a Black man, I had no rights that a white man was bound to respect. However, the Solano County Court officers never thought I possessed the temerity nor the relentless tenacity to not only pursue the exculpatory medical evidence, but to actually get it. 

This newly discovered exculpatory medical evidence that I acquired after my trial in 2000 not only exonerates me but clearly exposes corruption and malfeasance within Solano County Superior Court. To demonstrate and prove my point, I beseech you to go on the computer and look up the name Dr. Susan Hogan, forensic pathologist, Solano County. 

Initially, Dr. Hogan worked for Forensic Medical Group in 2000. She also testified in 2000 at my trial concerning the cause of death involving the white man I was accused of killing. 

This sentence renders me a slave until I die.

Dr. Hogan was hired in 2009 by the Solano County Sheriff Department. She was fired in 2013 for falsifying her autopsy findings as to the cause of death and withholding exculpatory medical evidence. She is currently under investigation by Solano County Police Department and the FBI. 

Ironically, the cursory investigation is not thorough. It’s intentionally truncated in order to camouflage and suppress the malfeasance and corruption of Dr. Hogan and the Solano County Superior Court’s officials. 

The police and the FBI must investigate all of Dr. Susan Hogan’s autopsy findings if the cause of death was an issue in any criminal trial proceedings. Because of Dr. Hogan and Solano County Superior Court officials, I was convicted and sentenced to a term of 27 years to life. This sentence renders me a slave until I die.

Pursuant to the Prop 36 ruling, I was ineligible for re-sentencing because I intended to cause great bodily injury to the victim. However, I was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by a jury. There is no intent to cause great bodily injury in involuntary manslaughter!

The racism in my case is overwhelming. The question of color has intruded at every step of our stumbling history. American courts, where color and race should be irrelevant, have shown little difference from other segments of the nation’s life.

Color is more than an idle statistic – it is an enduring reality. It is America’s way of life.

Ironically, in terms of the teaching of American history, an American judge can feel that he has more in common with a white Russian, than a Black American.

As I complete these narratives, I can feel and hear the insightful words of Bob Marley (Dec. 11, 1972 – July 6, 1992):

“The color of a man’s skin

is of no more significance

than the color of his eyes!”

“I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”

Postscript: To my comrade, Dwayne Jackson, E87649, aka Heavy, thank you for your support and resistance in challenging the racist Three Strikes law. Always remember, Brother Heavy, victory belongs to the player that’s on the field, not to those who sit in the bleachers and spectate. They will never know victory or defeat. And you will defeat prostate cancer because you are a true player.

My oldest son is Lashan Earl Winn. He was killed at 19 years old. His beautiful spirit lives forever. Rest in peace, Big Man!

Unequivocally “dynamite” :)

Send our brother some love and light: Ronnie Lashan Winn, P82076, CMC, F-14-6-L, P.O. Box 8101, San Luis Obispo, CA 93409.

Editor’s note: Mr. Winn has requested and is crowdsourcing a complete and thorough investigation of Dr. Susan Hogan and her autopsy findings in the cause of the death of James Paul Rendelman and a complete investigation into all lawyers who intentionally withheld and suppressed exculpatory medical evidence. If you are moved to help Mr. Winn get more information, please write to him.