From solitary confinement at Pelican Bay, Jesse Perez sues his guards for retaliation, wins $25,000

This is good news, published in the SF Bay View on Nov. 30th, 2015

Written by Claude Marks, Freedom Archives

On Friday, a federal jury in San Francisco awarded $25,000 in damages to Jesse Perez, who sued guards for trashing his cell in retaliation for his lawsuit against the prison and for his stand against solitary confinement.

Jesse Perez’s legal team – Randall Lee, lead attorney, Jesse Perez, Katie Moran and Matthew Benedetto – enjoys the victory in federal court in San Francisco Nov. 24, 2015. – Photo: Katie Moran

Jesse Perez, 35, is from Colton in San Bernardino County and has been imprisoned since age 15. He was sent to the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay in December 2003 and was held there for 10 years. He took part in all three hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013, protesting prolonged isolation and demanding human rights for prisoners.

Perez’s lawyer, Randall Lee, said the verdict sends “a resounding message that the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment are sacrosanct for all of us – even a prisoner in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay.”

The case is based on Jesse Perez challenging the legitimacy of a CDCr gang validation pro se in 2005. He was assigned counsel after he defeated a state dismissal motion and won a settlement in 2012. Perez received a monetary award as well as the right to have his gang affiliation reevaluated.

Similarly, CDCr settled the Ashker case prior to trial, as the state of California wants to avoid having to be held publically accountable and to be subjected to scrutiny and interrogation in court.

In his current civil suit, Perez argued that guards retaliated against him for exercising his right to file a lawsuit and in response to his successful litigating for his human rights and to overturn his baseless gang validation.

Rather than re-reviewing Jesse’s gang validation as was mandated by his court settlement, and just days after the settlement, four officers forced him to strip, removed all of his legal paperwork and trashed his cell. In the process, one officer stated, “You might have been able to win some money from us, but we will make sure that you stay [in solitary] where you belong.”

Jesse did not get all of his property back – especially some of his legal work. He was later charged with a serious rules violation for “willfully obstructing the officers” during that search, for which he was ultimately found not guilty.

Jesse Perez states, “As prisoner activists seeking to make positive contributions to the interests and human dignity of prisoners, we understand that the trappings of power enjoyed by guards represent the biggest obstacle to significant and lasting progress.” By filing the lawsuit, Perez wrote that he sought the “opportunity to shine a public light at trial and rein in what prisoner activists often endure in exercising their constitutional rights: the retaliatory abuse of the department’s disciplinary process by prison guards.”

In his testimony, Jesse stated that he filed this case to defend what minimal human rights he retains as a prisoner. He also said that the officers he sued represent a backlash that prisoners commonly experience when they speak out to access their constitutional rights, since the CDCr will not investigate and reform itself.

Predictably, attorneys for the CDCr tried to discredit Perez’ testimony as well as that of other prisoners who testified in support of his argument. The jury found Jesse Perez and his witnesses credible.

In Jesse’s concluding testimony he made it clear: “Our system of law requires prisoners like me and many others to surrender our freedom, but our laws do not require us, and we refuse to, surrender our human dignity or the minimal constitutional rights that we retain even after crossing the prison gates.

“So for me, we’re here because prison officials decided to punish me for exercising my constitutional right to file a lawsuit against their colleagues. They threatened (my cellmate) Rudy and me. They unnecessarily confiscated important legal documents that I had. They trashed my cell. And then they wrote a false disciplinary report in order to keep me in solitary confinement.

“This is not just about a messy cell or some sort of inconvenience in having to defend against a trumped up RVR. This cell was my whole world for the multiple years that I was in there. It’s the only space where I was able to experience the little bit of life that exists in solitary.

“They didn’t just take my stuff. They took the only possessions that I had. It’s all I had. So to me it was a huge deal.

“I think the officers’ actions also represent the sort of backlash that prisoners often have to hazard when speaking out or exercising their constitutional rights. So to me, we’re also here so that we can both inform and empower the public to deal with this continued corrupt course of conduct. Because in our reality, the CDCR seems incapable or unwilling to do so. So that’s why we’re here.”

Perez’s case is not the only recent instance of guards’ retaliation against prisoners for their basic expression of civil rights and political activism. Since August, inmates in the Pelican Bay SHU say they have been awakened every half-hour by prison guards in a practice that amounts to sleep deprivation.

The policy is known as security and welfare checks, during which prison guards “check on inmates” in segregated housing, including solitary confinement cells, every 30 minutes – 48 times every day – to make sure they are “not injuring themselves or trying to kill themselves.”

Not coincidentally, these checks started just days after prisoners claimed victory in the landmark settlement of Ashker v. Brown, which significantly reduced California’s ability to keep people in solitary confinement – and overturned a system of gang validation used to justify decades of isolation for hundreds of prisoners, often because of their organizing resistance to conditions and their general political beliefs.

Claude Marks, director of Freedom Archives, 522 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110


Jesse Perez prevails in his federal lawsuit claiming retaliation by Pelican Bay officers

by Kim Rohrbach

On Nov. 24, 2015, an eight-person jury unanimously found in favor of plaintiff Jesse Perez in his retaliation case brought against several officers at Pelican Bay State Prison under the Civil Rights Act, Title 42 USC Section 1983.

The jurors agreed that four officers, all of whom were employed as assistant internal gang investigators at the time of the incidents prompting Mr. Perez’s lawsuit, each unlawfully engaged in retaliatory conduct in response to an earlier and eventually successful lawsuit brought by Mr. Perez about a decade ago.

The latter lawsuit contested Mr. Perez’s unlawful confinement at Pelican Bay’s SHU (Security Housing Unit). Settlement negotiations were underway at the time that the retaliatory conduct raised in Perez’s second lawsuit occurred, but the case had not yet settled.

The officers found guilty on Nov. 24 in regard to Mr. Perez’s first cause of action for First Amendment retaliation are Anthony Gates, Daniel Gongora, Eric Healy and Guillermo Pimentel. A fifth officer, Sean Burris, was found not guilty. A sixth officer, J. Prelip, was dropped from the case prior to trial.

Mr. Perez’s summary of his retaliation lawsuit can be read in the Bay View. The docket number for this case is 3:13-cv-05359-VC (N.D. Cal.).

At trial, Perez likened his decade-plus-long efforts at negotiating his way through the legal system to putting together a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle in the dark. He testified that his education, prior to his incarceration as a teenager, ended with the seventh grade.

Yet, despite this handicap, he filed both his retaliation case as well as in his preceding case without the benefit of legal representation. Moreover, he was able to go a great distance in terms of prosecuting each case on his own before he did finally obtain pro bono representation.

After the state challenged Mr. Perez’s first lawsuit protesting his confinement in solitary, Mr. Perez brought an appeal and cross-appeal, and on his own motion was appointed counsel by the 9th Circuit. Katie Moran and Randall Lee from Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr, LLP, were assigned to the appellate case. Attorneys Moran, Lee and others from their firm later joined in as Perez’s counsel on his second lawsuit alleging retaliation, and filed a first amended complaint in July 2014.

Mr. Perez had filed his initial handwritten complaint in the retaliation case in November 2013, after exhausting his options for relief through the administrative grievance process available through the CDCR. The CDCR’s administrative grievance process involves no external review by any staff independent of the CDCR, or by any judge, as many readers of this publication may be aware.

The trial on Mr. Perez’s retaliation case, which began Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, wrapped up for the most part on Friday, Nov. 20, at which time jurors began their deliberations. The jurors delivered their verdict late in the day on Tuesday, Nov. 24, returning to court the following morning to hear testimony concerning damages and to decide upon the amount of damages. Mr. Perez was awarded $25,000, which significantly included punitive damages.

Mr. Perez donated the proceeds of his settlement from his earlier case to his mother to help her pay off the mortgage for her home and to an organization located in South Central Los Angeles that works to support youths seeking to attend college.

The jurors in Mr. Perez’s latest matter returned a hung verdict as to a second cause of action for conspiracy levied against defendants Burris, Gates, Gongora, Healy and Pimentel. The jurors, during deliberations, indicated in writing to Judge Vincent Chhabria that they were “hopelessly deadlocked” on this claim in regard to two of the five defendants.

Although the jurors found defendants Burris, Gongola and Pimentel not guilty of conspiracy, they could arrive at no decision as to defendants Gates and Healy. Judge Chhabria declared a mistrial as to the claim of conspiracy against Gates and Healy.

During defendants’ closing arguments on Nov. 20, Jennifer Nygaard, co-counsel for the state Attorney General’s Office, emphasized the fact that Eric Healy, Anthony Gates and Dan Gongola – who, again, were all found guilty with respect to Mr. Perez’s First Amendment retaliation claim – had each been promoted following the incidents leading up to Perez’s retaliation case. As was one of the state’s witnesses in the matter, David Barneburg, or so it had earlier come out during testimony.

Barneburg led Pelican Bay’s Internal Gang Investigation Unit as a lieutenant, starting in 2009. After the events precipitating Mr. Perez’s retaliation lawsuit, Barneburg was made an associate warden at Pelican Bay.

Critical for readers to understand, relative to Mr. Perez’s legal ordeals, is that the CDCR currently defines a “gang” or “security threat group,” in relevant part, as follows:

“[A]ny … organization, association or group of three or more persons which has a common name or identifying sign or symbol whose members and/or associates … engage or have engaged, on behalf of that organization, association or group, in two or more acts which include, planning, organizing, threatening, financing, soliciting or committing unlawful acts, or act of misconduct.” See California Code of Regulations, Title 15, Section 3000 (2015), which contains no definition of the word “misconduct.”

One reason that this is critical is that, until quite recently, those incarcerated within the CDCR’s prisons could be lawfully held in indefinite solitary confinement for alleged “gang” and/or “security threat group” members or associates by CDCR officials, without having committed any violent or criminal act to warrant such designation. Mr. Perez, until his release into the general population at Pelican Bay in 2013, was one of innumerable people in California’s prisons who endured this torture, under regulations that have been successfully challenged under thefederal class-action Ashker v. Brown.

In addition, if Anthony Gates, Sean Healy, plus any third defendant-officer named in Mr. Perez’s most recent lawsuit had been found guilty of the second cause of action for conspiracy, then the question would beg to be asked: How would those defendant-officers not themselves qualify as “gang” members, if one were to apply the relevant language codified in the California Code of Regulations, Title 15, cited above?

The type of abuse raised by Mr. Perez in his retaliation case – e.g., the trashing of his cell and the confiscation of his legal and other papers and the meritless Rules Violation Report issued against him – is unfortunately, in this writer’s experience, by no means unusual. What is unusual is that Mr. Perez has brought the abuse that he suffered to the light of day in court, against formidable obstacles, and has prevailed on his main cause of action for First Amendment retaliation.

Kim Rohrbach volunteers with California Prison Focus (CPF) and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) and is an advocate for tenants and a paralegal. She and many allies from CPF and PHSS were present in the courtroom during Jesse Perez’s recent trial, taking shifts to maintain a nearly continuous presence there.

 

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Imprisoned People Facing Medical Neglect and Violence, Family Members and Organizers Speak Out

Press release received per email:
For Immediate Release – Monday, November 23, 2015
 
Imprisoned People Facing Medical Neglect and Violence, Family Members and Organizers Speak Out
 
Press Contact: Dolores Canales, Family Unity Network, (714)290-9077 dol1canales@gmail.com  or Hannah McFaull, Justice Now, (415) 813.7715 hannah@justicenow.org
 
Sacramento – On November 11th, an imprisoned person at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF), faced extreme violence at the hands of prison guards. Stacy Rojas and three others were detained, physically abused, sexually harassed, strip searched in the presence of male guards, and were kept without water, food or restrooms for eleven hours. The group was illegally kept in administrative segregation without a lock up order and have been denied health care support for the injuries caused by these officers. Requests to speak with members of the prison’s Investigative Services Unit have so far been ignored.
 
“I just want to let them know that we have been physically abused, sexually harassed,” said Stacy Rojas, “and that this was just wrong. They used excessive force, totally used excessive force against us and we need help.”
 
The public acknowledgment of excessive use of force and deadly use of force by police has increased throughout the nation. Video recordings of interactions between the police and the public have increased significantly in recent years as technology has improved and the number of distribution channels has expanded. This is not an option open to people experiencing violence from guards behind prison walls and any attempt to speak out is often met with retaliation and increased force.
 
“Our communities in and out of lock up have lived experiences with biased policing — ranging from racial profiling, to excessive, and sometimes lethal, use of force”, stated Patrisse Cullors co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter. “We hear about it more and more in the communities we live in, but rarely hear about the traumatic ways that it manifests in the California prison system. Stories like Stacy’s are happening everyday inside of California prisons and jails with little to no measures taken by authorities to keep people safe and hold law enforcement, such as prison guards accountable.”
 
Advocacy organizations working with people in women’s prisons are familiar with reports of abuse and violence, like that experienced at CCWF last week. The California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Justice Now, the Family Unity Network, the TGI Justice Project and others regularly provide legal and medical advocacy support following incidents of violence perpetrated by correctional officers at women’s prisons.
 
This group of organizations and Stacy’s family members are requesting an independent investigation of the violence and excessive use of force used. They are requesting medical care and safe housing for Stacy and all those involved. The group also demands an end to the violence imposed on women, transgender people, gender nonconforming people, and communities of color within the California prison system.
 
“My sister is at the end of a fourteen year sentence and it seems as though some would wish to take that away. This has never happened [to Stacy] before. We have never had fear for my sister’s life”, said Adriana Rojas. “My sister Stacy Rojas’ constitutional rights have been violated by being stripped searched by male guards, assaulted by means of kicking and stomping, taken outdoors in near 40 degree weather, threatened with rape, humiliated, placed in holding cages for nearly 12 hours, and deprived of food and water.” Albert Jacob Rojas added, “They were denied medical attention and denied the right to speak to internal affairs. We ask that anybody who cares about human rights and women’s rights please join us in demanding justice for all.”
 
Family members and advocates are calling for:
  • An immediate independent investigation into the violence and excessive force used by guards in this incident.
  • Suspension of guards involved pending investigation.
  • Comprehensive medical treatment for injuries sustained during the incident.
  • No retaliation for speaking out against this abuse.
 
###

CA: governor signs SB261 for an earlier parole date for youth between 18-22 years who were sentenced to life

From a press reease by the Youth Justice Coalition:

This afternoon – (Saturday, October 3, 2015) – Governor Brown signed SB261.

Thank you to everyone who helped to push SB261 forward: To the families of people who received extreme sentenes as youth people 18-22, to people who are currently and formerly incarcerated, to the bill’s co-sponsors (Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Human Rights Watch and the Youth Justice Coalition), to Senator Loni Hancock and her staff, and to everyone and every organization who made calls to and/or met with legislators and the Governor, sent letters to the State Capitol, and attended legislative hearings.

Across California, over the past 4 decades, tens of thousands of youth have received sentences so long that they will die in prison. SB261 offers youth ages of 18 – 22, who face many of the same developmental and economic challenges as their slightly younger peers, an opportunity for an earlier parole hearing. Together, we are moving California toward a future where all people deserve the opportunity to return home.

Senate Bill 261 understands that currently as many as 16,000 people in California prisons were still teens and young adults at the time of their arrest. More than half have life sentences. SB 261 would give these young people access to both programming and hope – two things denied youth with extreme sentences in California – providing young people the motivation and opportunity needed to focus on healing, treatment, education and job training.

Furthermore, this bill would contribute greatly to decreases in violence and recidivism within the state’s prison system. When people have a meaningful opportunity for release, hope increases, disciplinary problems are alleviated, access to programming allows for greater vocational, educational and life skills development, and violent altercations both with staff and other people incarcerated within facilities dramatically drop.

In addition, SB 261 recognizes that California spends millions of dollars to incarcerate each person sentenced to Life and other extreme sentences. California is number one nationwide in prison spending, #47 in K-12 spending and last in spending for higher education. It costs a minimum of $50,000 per year to incarcerate each person in a California Prison – and tens of thousands more for anyone in solitary confinement, where many youth facing extreme sentences are held. SB 261 would save California’s limited funds. It is a bill that is smart on crime and fiscally wise for our state.
Like us on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/YouthJusticeCoalition

Youth Justice Coalition
@ Chuco’s Justice Center
On the border between South Central L.A. and Inglewood
One light west of Florence and Crenshaw
1137 E. Redondo Blvd., Inglewood, CA 90302
323-235-4243 * Fax: 323-846-9472
info@youth4justice.org

http://www.youth4justice.org

Action Alert for Duane Peters of the Dallas 6

This comes from Support the SCI Dallas 6 (Pennsylvania):

PRISONER:
Duane Peters FP7306
SCI Mahanoy 301
Morea Rd,
Frackville, PA 17932

INFO:
Dallas 6 member Duane Peters has been under constant retaliation because of the Dallas 6 case. Some of the staff are the same staff that were at Dallas, some are family members, some friends. They are protecting the interests of the guards involved in this case.

As always, they came in the cell under the guise of a “contraband” search, flooded the cell and dropped legal documents and some artwork featuring the Dallas 6 into the water on the floor. This time, they have fashioned nooses and placed them in his cell. He continues to be told that he won’t make it to the Dallas 6 trial. He has been restricted from making phone calls and most importantly they are not letting him make ANY legal calls, which is court ordered. They continue to destroy and tamper with evidence. This is a reality for anyone with cases against the DOC or evidence that reveals their barbaric, tortuous treatment of inmates.

PLEASE CALL/FAX/EMAIL:

DOC Secretary John Wetzel
Phone: 717-728-4109
Fax: 717-728-4178
EMAIL: ra-contactdoc@pa.gov

DEMAND:
· Stop all harassment and retaliation to Duane Peters (his registration nr is: FP7306)
· Remind him that this issue has been brought to his attention at several town hall meetings and in writing and phone calls for the past two to three years
· Remind him that these reports are being shared with the Department of Justice and will continue to be shared with them
· If further harassment and retaliation continues, we will be asking for charges on everyone involved, from the guards up to the superintendent of SCI Mahanoy. The charges will be destroying evidence, ethnic intimidation and harassment.

*I would appreciate if you please email notes of your call to freedom4six@gmail.com.

WRITE A LETTER TO JUDGE GELB
Write a letter to Judge Gelb asking her to strictly enforce all of her court orders in the Dallas 6 case. Ask Judge Gelb to place an order against ethnic intimidation and retaliation and ensure that it is strictly enforced. If anyone wants a pre-made letter template, please email freedom4six@gmail.com for a copy.

Judge Lesa Gelb
Luzerne County Courthouose
200 N. River Street
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711

SEND A LETTER

FAX/MAIL A LETTER TO LUZERNE “KIDS FOR CASH” COUNTY DA,
DEMAND SHE DROP THE CHARGES AGAINST the DALLAS 6

Here is the letter you can send to the district attorney asking to drop the charges against the Dallas 6
Please feel free to forward and share with anyone who may be interested in participating.

Fax# (570) 825-1622
Stefanie J. Salavantis, District Attorney
Luzerne County Courthouse
200 N River St
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711

Dear District Attorney,

I am writing regarding the Dallas 6 case. This case has been in the courts going on five years. Carrington Keys, Duane Peters, Anthony Locke and Derrick Stanley have been waiting all these years for a chance to tell the truth in court. Anthony Kelly who pleaded out earlier has also been waiting for resolution of the case. False charges of rioting were brought against these men simply because they covered their cell windows to bring to your attention and the attention of other authorities gross violations of civil and human rights, abuse and torture that they experienced, witnessed and documented at SCI Dallas.

We know from the recent exposure of abuse by guards at Rikers Island and Attica prisons in New York State that there are many jurisdictions that are facing charges of gross abuse of prisoners. There are many in Pennsylvania and across the nation who know about the Dallas 6 men who are outraged that your office did not investigate the human rights violations that the men were non-violently protesting, but instead investigated and also charged the men with rioting for being whistleblowers!

Local and national organizations have endorsed and support these prisoners. All are watching. All are calling on your office to drop the charges against the Dallas 6, which are frivolous, false and vindictive, an abuse of power and a waste of taxpayers’ money. We call instead for an immediate investigation by your office, as well as by federal and state authorities, of the abuse of prisoners by guards at SCI Dallas and all Luzerne County prisons, and the prosecution of guilty parties, including of those in positions of responsibility who have been told about it, for allowing this injustice to continue.

Besides the obvious injustice of retaliation against the Dallas 6 for trying to draw attention to abuse of prisoners at SCI Dallas, other reasons your office should drop the charges include:
· Covering your window is a violation of DOC policy and should have been handled internally in the prisons, not through the courts.
· Covering your window is not a riot. It is impossible to hold a riot in solitary confinement.
· The only people injured during the incident were the peaceful prisoners who were physically attacked by guards.
· The men have endured well-documented human rights abuses at SCI Dallas and now further abuse and retaliation at SCI Mahanoy and SCI Retreat, which has been reported to the appropriate authorities.
· Trial has been consistently delayed for years, taking almost five years to prosecute a third class felony.
· The county and DOC have wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars in housing, transportation, police and court costs bringing them back and forth across the state for a group vendetta by public servants.
· The District Attorney office has taken responsibility for redaction of videotapes without the consent, approval or knowledge of the judge.
· The District Attorney’s office has not turned over full discovery within these five years which is in contempt of court orders.

We have finally seen the justice system in New York begin to address the crisis of prisoner abuse by holding those responsible to account through criminal charges and dismissals of perpetrators. Luzerne County has experienced corruption and interpersonal relationships among officials — when will justice arrive and prevail at Luzerne County? You are responsible for the actions of those who are part of your office since they take your direction and carry out your decisions. Failure to drop the charges will expose to the public the lack of will of your office to investigate serious human rights violations, make your office complicit in the punishment of and retaliation against men who bravely tried to bring to your attention injustices and illegal practices at SCI Dallas, and raise questions about whether your personal relationship with people connected with SCI Dallas constitutes a serious conflict of interest.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,
Your Name/Title
Phone/Email

OR
FAX A LETTER
Fax: (570) 825-1622
OR BOTH
TO:
Stefanie J. Salavantis, Esquire
Luzerne County District Attorney
200 North River St.
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711

POINTS
• The charges are false and retaliatory
• The only people injured during the incident were the prisoners who were peaceful
• The only violence was carried out by the guards, who should be on trial for abuse
• Covering your window is a violation of DOC policy and should have been handled internally not through the courts
• Covering your window is not a riot! It is impossible to hold a riot in solitary confinement. Everyone seems to know this except for your court.
• The District Attorney office has not turned over full discovery within these 5 years with no sanctions or contempt being cited against them.
• The District Attorney office has taken responsibility for redaction of videotapes without the consent, approval or knowledge of the judge. This is illegal.
• The county and DOC have wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars in housing, transportation and court costs bringing them back and forth across the state for a personal vendetta
• Trial has been consistently delayed for years, taking almost 5 years to prosecute a 3rd class felony
• The men have endured well documented human rights abuses at SCI Dallas and now further abuse and retaliation at SCI Mahanoy and SCI Retreat, which has been reported to the proper authorities.

Thank you!

More information about the case of the six men who made a peaceful protest inside their solitary confinement cells inside SCI Dallas, PA, and who were severely and unjustly punished by PA DOC can be found by going to the support site.

Action needed: “Suicide Watch” amounts to Sleep Deprivation Torture at Pelican Bay State Prison

This was sent to us per email:

Immediate Action is needed.  Below is what was just sent to the PHSS Emergency Response Network.

PLEASE write an email, send a letter, and or make a phone call- or all three- about this sleep deprivation torture. It is very serious and has been going on since the night of August 2nd!

The sample letter can be changed, added to, etc.  Feel free to call (510) 426-5322 or phssreachingout@gmail.com with any questions, info, or ideas.

~ Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

Dear Emergency Response Network members,

Prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison’s SHU report the ill effects of  “welfare” or “suicide” checks occurring every thirty minutes, forty-eight times a day.  The checks are being aggressively conducted and prevent people from sleeping for over thirty minutes at a time.  Loud stomping, the slamming of doors, the striking of electronic wands against buttons installed by cell doors, and the shining of lights into prisoners’ faces are routine.  Noise reverberates throughout the concrete-and-steel pod and is basically non-stop.

As a result of the Coleman lawsuit, the CDCR was ordered by the court to conduct checks (which have been occurring at all SHUs for the better part of two years; not just Pelican Bay). However, it was left to the Department how to conduct them.

Attorneys involved in Coleman are aware of distress resulting from the checks, and have taken the problem up with the CDCR. In the meantime, we’re asking you to immediately contact Pelican Bay’s warden, Clark E. Ducart, to demand that the noise stops. Below is a sample letter/script, along with Warden Ducat’s contact information.

NOTE: If you e-mail Warden Ducart, please bcc phssreachingout@gmail.com.
This will enable us to inform the Coleman attorneys how many e-mails were sent.  Or, if you call, please send a one-line e-mail to phssreachingout@gmail.com stating, “I called Ducart.”

Contact information
Warden Clark E. Ducart
Pelican Bay State Prison 
P.O. Box 7000
Crescent City, CA 95531-7000

(707) 756–1000 ext. 9040

CDucart@cdcr.ca.gov
clark.ducart@cdcr.ca.gov
(Send email to both addresses)

Sample letter/script:

Warden Ducart:

Prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison’s SHU report the ill effects of  “welfare” or “suicide” checks occurring every thirty minutes, forty-eight times a day.  The checks are being conducted in an aggressive way and prevent people from sleeping for over thirty minutes at a time.  Loud stomping, the slamming of doors, the striking of electronic wands against buttons installed by cell doors, and the shining of lights into prisoners’ faces are routine.  Noise reverberates throughout pod and is basically non-stop.

The checks are court-ordeded, but the noise and disruption is not. Please make sure that the noise and disruption stops now.

Sleep deprivation and relentless exposure to loud noise are known methods of torture that can cause mental impairment. As John R. Martinez wrote in a letter to the secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: “Deprivation of sleep is a common form of torture and has no place in a civilized society. Sleep is a basic human need and a fundamental constitutional right and I shouldn’t have to be starving myself so I and my fellow prisoners can get some sleep.”

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]


A Message from Bomani Shakur (Keith LaMar) from Ohio’s death row about injustice, racism, and getting on with life

5 September 2015

Hello everybody:

Well, I finally received and read the court’s decision. What can I say? It’s so blatantly bogus that it’s almost impossible to form words to describe how I feel. It’s tragic. I mean, I’ve read the State’s theory quite a few times over the years, and I’ve refuted it every step of the way. But to now have it stand as the final word on the matter is a real slap in the face (to say the least). This system is such a joke, and these people, with their fancy titles and fancy robes, are nothing but a bunch of racist idiots with power—a power that they don’t deserve. And I’m expected to continue this charade by filing this or that motion, writing to this or that person, as if appealing to these people’s supposed conscience really means something beyond reducing me to a sniveling fool. I’m done with that. I’m done pleading and begging for my body, as if “my life” is something that they can truly take. My life is the sum total of all the thoughts and feelings that reside inside my mind, and they can never touch that.

We’ve given these people (?) way too much power over us, entrusted them with too much that is too precious, only to have them use, abuse and confuse us over and over again.

Why? Why do we continue to believe in this dream, this lie that we live in a post-racial society that recognizes only human beings? When will we ever wake up and see that all they have ever done is hide what’s real by revealing what’s false? I mean, contradiction after contradiction, and we swallow it all. Why? And this is how we’re expected to live our whole lives: watching little boys get gunned down at the playground for playing with toy guns—and no one is held accountable. How is that justice? A man standing on the sidewalk selling cigarettes (in the richest country in the world, no less) is murdered in broad daylight, on video, for everyone to see—and still no one is held accountable. And I’m supposed to be shocked and surprised that I lost my appeal?

Let’s get real. They’ve been killing niggers for centuries around here—hanging ‘em, burying ‘em, tar and feathering ‘em. . .  And ain’t I just a nigger, a THING? No? Well, tell that to the Supreme Court who, in 1875, declared that Dred Scott could not sue for his freedom because HE WAS NOT A PERSON, BUT PROPERTY. Better yet, tell it to Eric Garner’s family who, instead of receiving justice for their loss, were given a bag full of money to bury their grief, as if he was some kind of farm animal.

Make no mistake: when it comes to the so-called “justice system” in this country, we’re still stuck in the 1800s; the only thing that has changed is the vantage point from which we view what we choose to see. So look closely, adjust your scope, and you’ll see the tree and the rope. They’re still hanging niggers in America!

Over 100 of you showed up at my oral arguments last December and saw with your own eyes how ridiculous this whole thing is; the State couldn’t defend what they did. Many of you left with an optimistic feeling, believing that there was no way such a mockery could be rewarded with a victory. I feel your pain. It’s the same pain I felt after the blindfold was ripped from my eyes twenty years ago when a man, testifying at my trial, got on the stand and claimed to have had microscopic microchips embedded in his brain. There’s no way a jury is going to find me guilty of this, I told myself. But find me guilty they did—and then they sentenced me to death! Believe me, I know what it means to be disillusioned. Indeed, for the past twenty years, I’ve watched the so-called “wheel of justice” roll over my rights while my alleged attorneys have done nothing but sit back and collect a fee to auction off my life. Trust me, this whole process has been nothing but a sham.

Case in point: Three weeks after oral arguments were heard in my case, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on another case in which the principal issue, once again, revolved around the withholding of exculpatory (favorable) evidence. In this case, a Mr. Darryl Gumm admitted to the kidnapping, attempted rape, and murder of a ten-year-old boy. However, since the State neglected to divulge to Mr. Gumm’s attorneys that other suspects—two of whom reportedly confessed to the murder—were initially pursued, Mr. Gumm was granted relief. He was also granted relief on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct, after the prosecutor improperly elicited testimony from Mr. Gumm’s ex-roommate who testified that he (Mr. Gumm) “fucked a horse” that belonged to the roommate’s family.

Now, I think we can all agree that there’s nothing more deplorable than the rape and murder of a 10-year-old child (to say nothing of the horse!)—and yet, in reviewing his claims, the Sixth Circuit, notwithstanding Mr. Gumm’s confession, was correct in granting him relief since the State violated his Constitutional rights by not turning over evidence that contradicted their theory of events. This is the exact same thing the prosecution did in my case (and worse), and I, likewise, should have received relief. In fact, not only did Mr. Gumm and I have the same issue, but we had the same attorney, the same federal judge, and appealed to the same court (I wish I was making this stuff up).

On his initial appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, Mr. Gumm’s convictions were upheld (as were mine), after which an appeal was filed in federal court. Here, Mr. Gumm was appointed an attorney named Kate McGarry (as was I), who diligently pursued his claims, even after his sentence was reduced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. Chief Magistrate Michael Mertz  (same judge as I) presided over the case and recommended that Mr. Gumm receive relief. The State appealed to the Sixth Circuit, who ultimately upheld the District Court’s decision to grant relief to Mr. Gumm.

I present this case and its particulars, not to judge or castigate Mr. Gumm (obviously, he’s a very sick man), but to illustrate the arbitrary and capricious (and racist!) way in which “justice” is meted out in this country, and why the death penalty cannot be administered fairly.

Unlike Mr. Gumm, I never confessed to any crime; indeed, when the State offered me a deal, I rejected it outright and demanded a trial. I said it then, and I say it now: I didn’t kill anybody during the riot. But instead of turning over evidence that would help prove my innocence, the State played a game of mix and match, mixing random witness names with random excerpts of statements, and then told me to figure it out on my own. They never attempted to treat me fairly.

In 2007, when I was called back for an evidentiary hearing, I was allowed, through my attorneys, to put Lead Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier on the stand. He was the one who had fashioned the guidelines by which exculpatory evidence was turned over. Therefore, getting him on the stand was pivotal in proving that I was deprived of my right to due process. Under examination, he admitted that he had devised a Brady scheme that was decidedly narrow; to wit, in order for a statement to be viewed as favorable to my defense the witness had to “specifically exclude” me as a suspect.

In other words, if a witness came forward and claimed to have seen one of the murders, his statement was not viewed as exculpatory unless he specifically stated, “By the way, Keith LaMar wasn’t there.” This is crazy. Why would anybody, testifying to what they saw, think it necessary to specifically exclude me if they didn’t see me? And if they didn’t see me, how could they automatically assume I was a suspect? It didn’t make sense—unless, of course, the whole purpose behind narrowing the qualifications was to stifle and hinder the defense.

Because of what Piepmeier revealed on the stand at my evidentiary hearing, attorneys representing other prisoners who were sentenced to death after the riot (S.A. Hasan and George Skatzes) were able to convince the court to put their clients’ cases on hold while they combed the prosecutor’s files to determine for themselves what exactly was wrongfully withheld—and whether or not it was exculpatory.

It was the only fair and reasonable solution to circumvent the preposterous provisions that were established by the State (note: this all happened in 2011, over four years ago, and their cases are still on hold!). But when I asked my attorney, Kate McGarry, to file the necessary motions that would put my case on hold and allow me to go back and review the files, she refused (after initially giving me her word that she would). Why?

To put it plainly: racism. Kate McGarry is a racist. That’s the real reason why she didn’t diligently pursue my claims, and why I lost my appeal. I mean, how else to explain it? A white man admits to the kidnapping, attempted rape, and murder of a ten-year-old boy, and she goes above and beyond to protect his rights. Meanwhile, I’m swinging in the wind, strung up in a tree of lies.

About being a racist, I’m sure Kate would vehemently deny such an accusation. But racists very seldom acknowledge that they are racist. Once, while engaged in casual conversation, Kate broached the subject of Trayvon Martin’s death, wanting to know what I thought about it. I told her point-blank that it was racist bullshit.

“How can you justify killing a teenage boy who’s walking home drinking pop, eating Skittles?” I asked. She went on to explain George Zimmerman’s side, as if there was a plausible excuse for why he did what he did. That was the first time I saw it.

On another occasion, I asked Kate about a Senate bill that was being proposed in Arizona, having to do with improperly stopping suspected illegal immigrants. I wanted to know if she was in favor of something that would effectively violate the rights of large groups of Mexicans. She said something to the effect that, “those people enjoy our freedoms, but they don’t want to pay taxes. . .” She went on to tell me about a time when she was having one of her houses built and suspected that there were a few “undocumented workers” on the site.

“Did you go out and stop production? “ I asked.

“Oh, no, I didn’t do that,” she replied, without the slightest sense of hypocrisy in being willing to benefit from their cheap labor while at the same time denying them the right to live as human beings.

Imagine what it felt like coming to the realization that I was being represented by a racist. And before I’m accused of singling Kate out, let me be clear: this whole process was steeped in racism, from the strategic selection of the all-white jury to the hand-picked racist judge that presided over my trial. And that’s the true truth.

So, here I am, standing on the other side of a very long and treacherous journey. What now? In thinking about what to do with what remains of my time, I think it’s important to turn my attention to the movement to abolish the death penalty. Indeed, if we are ever going to move beyond the 1800s, we have to end this barbaric practice of State-sanctioned murder.

There will be a 7-day Walk to Stop Executions (October 4-10) from the Death House in Lucasville to the State House in Columbus to show opposition to capital punishment, and I want to encourage all of you who are able to come out and show your support. We have to stop this thing, and only we—standing together!—can do it. So please show your support. You can find more information at: http://walkagainstthedeathpenalty.footprintsforpeace.net.

In addition to that, I intend to increase my efforts to reach out to at-risk youth. I’ve had several opportunities to phone in to juvenile detention centers and talk with groups of young men who’re at the beginning of this road, and it’s been a very meaningful exchange. I want to double my efforts there and get them some books that’ll teach them about what it means to be alive. A very good book called “Between the World and Me” (Ta-Nehisi Coates) just came out, and I want to get as many copies as possible into juvenile detention centers.  It’s a powerful piece, written to the author’s 15-year-old son about the perils of inhabiting a black body in a racist country.

To raise money to purchase the books, I’m putting up for auction one of the paintings I recently finished, a piece I’m calling “Chillin’ on Green Court,” a reference to the projects where I spent most of my formative years.  It took me 117 hours to complete, and I’m hoping you all will support me in my desire to get some books in to these young people. They need our help. The auction can be found online at Ebay through September 25th at: http://csr.ebay.com/sell/success.jsf?itemid=121760895747&mode=AddItem&draftId=483016342002

I also intend to resume writing my own manuscript. While awaiting the decision, I found it hard to concentrate on writing, which is why I took up painting. Now that the federal court has said what it has to say, I need to get back to my life. I refuse to allow these people, and this situation, to distract me from my purpose. They put me in this madness to make an example out of me, to show other rebellious souls what they’ll do to them if they resist. They tried to break me, to strip me of my strength and rob me of my smile, all so that they could parade me around as a warning to others. But, look! I’m still standing! I’m still smiling! I’m still fighting!

It ain’t over,

Signature of Bomani Shakur (Keith LaMar) Keith LaMar (Bomani Shakur) summer 2015 KeithLamar's mile 2015 KeithLamar with friends 2015   Bomani Shakur

New Film Sheds Light on Lucasville Prison Uprising Cases:

Ohio: Walk to Stop Executions!

From the website: Walk Against the Death Penalty:

On Sunday October 4, 2015, abolitionists from Ohio and beyond will begin a 7 day 83 mile walk from the Lucasville prison where death row inmates are executed to the Statehouse in Columbus calling for an end to capital punishment as proposed in two bills pending in the House and Senate. 

Those unable to participate in the full walk can join the final two hour leg in Columbus on Saturday, October 10, the World Day Against the Death Penalty, or attend the 12 noon rally at Trinity Episcopal Church, 125 E. Broad St. across from the Capitol.  

Keynote speakers include OJPC director David Singleton and two murder victim family members Sam Reese Sheppard, and OTSE President Melinda Dawson.