Troy Davis – Standing for Justice in the Rain

We had an inspiring and very wet rally in support of Troy Davis on Tuesday night, in spite of being off to a late start and having to do without a sound system.

We heard from Jeff Ellis for the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, who spoke about the injustice in Troy’s and other cases, and why the death penalty is wrong in all cases. 


James Bible of the NAACP spoke next about the importance of standing for justice, and bringing all our friends to stand with us.  He also introduced and highlighted the case of recently released Gerald Hankerson, who spoke of nearly giving up hopes for justice in his case. James Bible was brought back up later in the vigil to read a statement from Troy Davis in the now pouring rain (and spoke as well about a young man, 13 at the time of his crime facing the Life Without Parole).


Ours was one of many on what was a Global Day of Action for Troy around the world. 

I’ve posted more details on previous posts.  In bullet points from the AI Fact Sheet:

  • There is no physical evidence against Troy Davis
  • The weapon used in the crime was never found.
  • The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony.
  • Seven of the nine non-police witnesses have recanted or contradicted their testimony.
  • Many of these witnesses have stated they were pressured or coerced by police.
  • One of the two witnesses who has not recanted or contradicted testimony is Sylvester Coles the principal alternative suspect.
  • Nine individuals have signed affidavits implicating Sylvester Coles.
  • Troy Davis has never had a hearing in federal court on the reliability of the witness testimony against him.

Take action online at:

Read the report “Where is the justice for me? The case of Troy Davis, facing execution in Georgia at:


Tues. Vigils for Troy Davis – Westlake & Around the World

Seattle will be holding a vigil for Georgia death row prisoner Troy Davis tomorrow night, Tuesday, May 19, 6–8 pm at Westlake Plaza as part of a Global Day of Action by Amnesty International members and friends throughout the US and around the world. Speakers at Seattle’s vigil include Jeff Ellis from the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and James Bible of the NAACP.


It’s shocking, when in this country, evidence of innocence can not be heard in a capitol punishment case.  Yet, as Amnesty International noted:

Restrictions on Federal appeals have prevented Troy Anthony Davis from having a hearing in federal court on the reliability of the witness testimony used against him, despite the fact that most of the witnesses have since recanted, many alleging they were pressured or coerced by police. Troy Davis remains on Georgia death row, and may be scheduled for execution in the near future.

Troy is currently just past his 30 day stay following an April 16 denial of Troy’s case by the 11th District Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that he will file a last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court on Tuesday. Amnesty International includes a link to the 11th District ruling online.

One thing that struck me about the ruling was, as commented on by the Atlanta Progressive News, the ruling quoted Democratic Senators’ political posturing as reasoning for why new evidence of innocence should not be considered, including then Senator (now VP) Biden, Senator Feinstein and Senator Kennedy, claiming they don’t want to go against the wishes of Congress:

“The vast majority of us… want to and have been trying for years to change the old system to limit the time in which a petition can be filed and to limit the number of petitions that can be filed. So essentially you get one bite out of the apple,” then-US Sen. Biden (D-DE) said, according to the 1995 Congressional Record.

“The proposal to limit inmates to one bite at the apple is sound in principle,” US Sen. Kennedy had said.

So, because we have Democrats jumping on the “tough on crime” band wagon, passing laws refusing to let proof of innocence be heard, that’s reason enough for the courts to abandon justice as well.

Indeed, it was during a Democratic administration that this damaging legislation was passed and signed into law by then President Clinton.

Enacted in 1996, the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act , among other things, placed limits on the grounds upon which someone on death row could request a new federal hearing.

The AEDPA “tightened these limits by requiring successive petitioners to show both cause — or diligence — as well as a fundamental miscarriage of justice — or actual innocence,” the majority judges noted.

As dissenting Judge Rosemary Barkett points out:

This case highlights the difficulties in navigating AEDPA’s thicket of procedural brambles,” Barkett wrote. “While we must deal with the thorny constitutional and statutory questions before us, we also cannot lose sight of the underlying issue in this case.” 
“Simply put, the issue is whether Troy Anthony Davis may be lawfully executed when no court has ever conducted a hearing to assess the reliability of the score of affidavits that, if reliable, would satisfy the threshold showing for a truly persuasive demonstration of actual innocence, thus entitling Davis to habeas relief.”
“To execute Davis, in the face of a significant amount of proffered evidence that may establish his actual innocence, is unconscionable and unconstitutional,” Barkett wrote.


Shouldn’t innocence matter?  Especially when the death penalty is involved?  Sorry, it’s too late to prove Troy’s innocence because the Federal Judges don’t want to offend Congress? Too late because we have Congress members and Judges who would rather kill an innocent man than not appear “tough on crime” by allowing him a chance to prove his innocence?



Learn more and take part in a vigil in your community or act online at:

Ending Violence Against Native American Women

This week, in honor of International Women’s Day, Amnesty International is urging people to call their Senators to co-sponsor the Tribal Law and Order Act to help protect Native American and Alaska Native women from sexual violence in the U.S.

Amnesty International issued their report, Maze of Injustice – the Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA nearly two years ago.

According to Amnesty’s press release at the time: “Justice Department figures indicate that American Indian and Alaska Native women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the United States in general; more than one in three Native women will be raped in their lifetimes.” AI also reported in their summary that these rapes are often brutal and, also according to the Justice Department, “in at least 86 per cent of the reported cases of rape or sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, survivors report that the perpetrators are non-Native men.”

A maze of jurisdictions and the lack of ability to hold the perpetrator accountable especially if he’s a non-native on native land are major issues, in addition to lack of funding for police and health services on native lands.

The Federal Government has also undermined the authority of tribal governments to respond to crimes committed on tribal land. Women who come forward to report sexual violence are caught in a jurisdictional maze that federal, state and tribal police often cannot quickly sort out. Three justice systems — tribal, state and federal — are potentially involved in responding to sexual violence against Indigenous women. Three main factors determine which of these justice systems has authority to prosecute such crimes:
– whether the victim is a member of a federally recognized tribe or not;
– whether the accused is a member of a federally recognized tribe or not; and
– whether the offence took place on tribal land or not.

That’s a lot to have to navigate through when you’ve just been the victim of a violent and traumatic act.  It gets worse though.

Tribal prosecutors cannot prosecute crimes committed by non-Native perpetrators. Tribal courts are also prohibited from passing custodial sentences that are in keeping with the seriousness of the crimes of rape or other forms of sexual violence. The maximum prison sentence tribal courts can impose for crimes, including rape, is one year. At the same time, the majority of rape cases on tribal lands that are referred to the federal courts are reportedly never brought to trial.

Amnesty International wants you to call in to your Senators this week, asking them to co-sponsor the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009 to improve prosecution and response to violent crimes against Native American and Native Alaskan Women.

For information on calling your Senators, including a sample call script and fact sheets go to:

Stop Violence Against Native American Women.  End impunity.

Hope vs Cynicism: Register. Vote. Yes, We Can!

The Republican Vice Presidential candidate has filed an ethics complaint against herself.  What more can you say? 

Ever since the conventions I’ve been torn between the images of hope and unity from the Democrats (and especially of Obama’s acceptance speech detailing a better future to a multi-cultural crowd of over 84,000), and the meanness and cynicism of the mostly white and rich Republicans (especially Sarah’s nastiness toward Obama, and McCain’s speech offering nothing but trickle down economics, lies and playing on people’s fears).

I have to go with Hope, though, and I do believe Hope is going to win. If there is a silver lining to Sarah’s speech, it is this – that thousands of Democrats (more than 130,000 by the next afternoon) donated an estimated $10 million to Barack before McCain even took the stage.

Grassroots organizing is still going on as well.  I attended a salon for Obama at a friends’ house Sunday with about 20 others to help plan how we’re going to win this election.  Thousands of similar events, vote drives, house parties and more are going on around the country.  Yes, We Can!

Meanwhile, the ethics of Alaska’s supposed ethics reformer and VP Candidate Sarah Palin seem murkier and murkier.  According to Robert Perry of the Consortium News (reprinted in Truthout):

Moreover, on Tuesday, just one day before giving her widely acclaimed speech to the Republican National Convention, Palin took the unusual step of filing an ethics complaint against herself – to move the investigation to the state personnel board whose three members are appointed by the governor.

This was known by the mainstream news media before Palin’s speech, yet it “was rarely, if ever, mentioned by TV pundits filling hours of air time with chatter about her charisma, her moose hunting and her 17-year-old daughter’s pregnancy.”

Then, this mornings Washington Post reports that:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a “per diem” allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.

And this is Alaska’s ethics reformer!

Meanwhile, as Michelle Obama mentioned at a Women for Obama event in Albuquerque last week, time is getting short, especially for voter registration, which has to be done by the end of this month or early next month, depending on where you live.

This is an important election.  Register, and if you’re already registered, make sure all your address is up to date, then make sure your friends and family are registered (convincing any fence sitters to vote for Barack).

Information online (including deadlines):

One slight inaccuracy on the website’s Washington state information.  They say Pierce is the only county still voting at the polls.  Actually, while we were supposed to be switched over to all mail voting by this year here in King County, they delayed it until after this election.  Most people are voting by mail even here, but there are a few of us hold outs going to the polling booth on November 4

When I vote, I always remember going in the polling booth (which looked huge to me at 4) with Mama back in Apalachin, New York when she voted for Robert Kennedy for New York State Senator in 1964.  Seems kind of appropriate that I’ll be casting what will probably be my last vote in an actual polling booth (soon to go into a museum?) for Barack Obama.

This moment has been a long time coming in so many ways.  If you’re thinking of not voting, listen to what some people had to risk to vote in 1964 in Mississippi

Should this not convince you, check the Truthout article on vote “caging” by the Republican party in Ohio (then make sure your voter registration address is up to date).  It’s the 21st century and this is still going on.


Yes, We Can!


Little Criminals? Poor Children Not Allowed to Play Outside

Children at a low-income apartment in the Central District have been forbidden to play outside, with their families facing evictions as penalty, according to an article in the most recent Real Change

Since management of The Flintstone (as long time residents refer to it) was taken over recently by a new couple, children have been ordered inside while playing, or even when taking the laundry to the laundry room, in the case of one ten-year-old girl. Residents report the new managers, who are white (most of the tenants aren’t), “bark at them like overseers.”

Fesseru says the manager’s wife told her 10-year-old daughter to get inside while she was carrying clothes to the laundry room. Another tenant, Rose Relda, says her son was told he couldn’t take his bike out and, when she went to the manager’s door to ask why, “She started screaming, ‘Nobody can play outside,’” Relda says.

According to the article, Flintstone resident K. L. Shannon (who many of us in Seattle know as being on the forefront of peace and justice issues) successfully fought a recent eviction notice over her 3–year-old nephew “playing, screaming, [and] riding skateboards and bikes on the walkways and stairwells.” 

Then the police were even called by the managers in June, because some children were throwing orange peels off a balcony.  O.K.  I can see talking to their parents and having the kids pick up the rinds, but, seriously, this is a situation dangerous enough (or maybe, criminal enough) to call the police? The police don’t have better things to do in the Central District?

Indeed, the police do.  In fact, that seems to be the central argument of the apartment managers and management company. According to both, the children are only banned from the stair wells and the walks, not the courtyard.  Diane Castanes of Phillips Real Estate claims these rules are “in part. . . to help clean up a building known for its drug and gang activity.”

“We can’t tell the drug dealers to stay out of the parking lot and not tell kids to. We have to tell everyone,” Castanes says. “That’s a way to avoid loitering that also avoids drug activity.”

Even if the children are just banned from playing on the walks (which doesn’t sound like how it’s being enforced), where exactly are these young children supposed to ride their bikes, skateboards, etc.?  Are they supposed to take them out on the street?  This is near the intersection of 18th and Union.  Good place for a 3–year-old to be out riding his bike.  Right.

When I was a kid, which I realize was a long time ago, in the 60s, in upstate New York, we were supposed to go outside and play, especially in the summer.  Has childhood changed so much?  Maybe we should put them in sweatshops.  No, just plop them in front of the tv to veg all day.  Fortunately, we had yards, but we did ride our bicycles, push our doll carriages, ride go-karts and sleds – on the street, as we didn’t have sidewalks, and it was a dead end street (where drivers, in those days, looked out for children). 

When I was a teenager, we lived in subsidized housing in an apartment complex a small town in Oregon, and, yes, the little children played on the walkways.  I don’t remember anyone being traumatized by it.  In fact, my mother (enabler that she was), was known by the kids as “the cookie lady.”  I guess she just didn’t see this playing outdoors/future drug dealer connection.

I’m still trying to see how banning children from playing is going to make the neighborhood safer from drug dealers, unless, of course, you view the children as future drug dealers.  After all, there are drug dealers near Pike Place Market.  I guess by the logic of the management company in the quote above, we can’t ban them unless we ban everyone else from loitering at the Market.  No more tourists standing around watching the flying fish or taking pictures of Rachel the Pig.  O.K. We can evidently tell the difference between tourists and drug dealers (and still enforce the laws); but apparently not between poor children and drug dealers? 

I especially have to wonder about the real reason for the attitude to the other kids when the couple who manage it have 5 children they say they don’t allow outside.  Maybe the kids just couch or mouse potatoes, or could it be the parents are afraid of the other kids in building, either because they’re poor or not white, or both?  Admittedly, the instances of vandalism to their house and car since they started enforcing the “no play” rules probably don’t add to their feelings of safety for their kids, but it seems like that attitude came first. 

Maybe I’m wrong about the racism or classism, and childhood has become illegal (or at least playing outside in the summer, which is what children do, or should be doing).

Justice Delayed

It was a bittersweet weekend.  On Saturday, at a ceremony at Fort Lawton, the Army formally apologized to 28 black soldiers wrongly convicted at a court-martial nearly 64 years ago (or rather, apologized to their families who could make it).  Then early Sunday morning, Samuel Snow, one of the two remaining veterans, died in a Seattle hospital hours after happily receiving his honorable discharge after all these years.

Evidence was destroyed, at the order of the commanding officer, Colonel Harry Branson, at the scene the next morning following the August 14, 1944 riot at Fort Lawton involving (mostly) black soldiers against Italian Prisoners of War, which included the lynching of one Italian soldier, Guglielmo Olivotto. Prosecuting attorney, Leon Jaworski, withheld that fact and evidence of the involvement of white soldiers in stirring up the riot, and that a white MP (military policeman) was the probable murderer of Olivotto.

Journalist Jack Hamann and his wife were finally able to track down those details through recently declassified documents in 2002.  He published those details in his book, On American Soil, which inspired Representative Jim McDermott and (with, it turns out, a little help from Hamann’s mother) Rep. Jim Hunter to have the Army Board for Correction of Military Records review the convictions (and, indeed, they overturned the convictions).

So, after 64 years, with only two of the soldiers, at the time, remaining by last Saturday’s ceremony, finally justice.  One of the soldiers being finally able to hold his honorable discharge just hours before he died.

In a column last November, Robert Jamieson reported Samuel Snow was not bitter, and never bad mouthed the Army.

“Yes, I felt I had been served an injustice,” Sam Snow said when we caught up this week. “But I decided I wasn’t going to hold a grievance against nobody.”

Finally, this Saturday, Samuel Snow had justice restored

As reported in the Seattle PI:

When the moment Samuel Snow waited most of his life for finally came, he didn’t speak. He just took the plaque affirming his honorable discharge – an honor that had been stolen from him more than six decades ago – held it against his chest in a Seattle hospital bed, and smiled.

That moment Saturday, family said, made his life complete.

A few hours later, Snow died at age 83.

“My father went home,” son Ray Snow said, “to present his God his discharge papers from this life.”