---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2002 11:49:02 -0800
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Criticism of Jury Selection In H. Rap Brown Case
As Jury Selection Begins In H. Rap Brown Case, Rights Group Criticizes
Alleged Sentencing Strategy
by Todd Steven Burroughs
NNPA National Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Even as jury selection was getting underway earlier
this week in the Atlanta trial of the former H. Rap Brown, human rights
activists were already focusing their attention on post-conviction
procedures that could result in the former civil rights leader being
sentenced to death.
In an open letter to Fulton County, Ga. District Attorney Paul Howard,
Amnesty International says it was disturbed by reports that prosecutors,
seeking the death penalty against Al-Amin, would reportedly introduce
excerpts from Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin's two books, his 1969
autobiography, ''Die, Nigger, Die!'' and ''Revolution By the Book,'' a 1993
memoir written after Al-Amin converted to Islam.
''Amnesty International is concerned that the scope for the misuse of, and
juror interpretation of, what may be provocative and unpopular opinions,
taken out of context, is too great in the context of a capital
sentencing,'' states the letter to Howard from Susan Lee, Amnesty
International's program director for America.
Howard, Lee and Al-Amin's lawyers were not available for comment. Terri
Lawson-Adams, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, told the
NNPA News Service that a gag order prohibits lawyers in the case from
In an exclusive interview with NNPA-his first since an Atlanta judge
ordered all trial participants not to talk-Al-Amin claims it is his
activism on trial, not his actions.
On Monday, the first day of the trial, Fulton County Judge Stephanie Manis
ruled that Al-Amin had violated the gag order. Manis revoked his telephone
privileges because he had spoken to reporters by phone and limited his
visitors. She claimed Al-amin tried to influence the jury pool with the
interviews and by writing an open letter to his Atlanta congregation
proclaiming his innocence.
''There has been a purposeful and continuous persecution of myself and
others who have attempted to provide leadership,'' he says.
The Muslim cleric says that former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's efforts
to destroy Black leadership in the 1960s and '70s lives.
''Things have not changed, when a person comes up to challenge their
authority and who will galvanize people,'' he asserts. ''I'm not surprised
as to what's happened.''
What happened was the March 16, 2000, murder of Fulton County Deputy Ricky
Kinchen. Deputy Aldranon English, Kinchen's partner, was seriously wounded.
English identified Al-Amin as the shooter.
Both officers, who are African-American, were shot after attempting to
serve a warrant to Al-Amin. He had failed to appear in court to answer
charges of driving without insurance, impersonating an officer and
receiving stolen property. Authorities say Al-Amin flipped out a police
badge when stopped by police in May 1999 for allegedly driving a stolen car.
Five days after the shooting, Al-Amin was captured by police in Lowndes
County, Ala., the same area where SNCC organizers in 1966 helped formed the
Lowndes County Freedom Organization. Authorities also claim Al-Amin fired
shots at U.S. marshals who came to arrest him.
Al-Amin denies any involvement in the shooting of the two Atlanta officers.
''I declare that I have committed no crime before Allah nor man, that I
have violated no law, civil or eternal, that the life of the blood of the
men I am accused of injuring and killing is neither on my hand or my
conscience, for I have done them no harm,'' he said in an open letter to
his supporters. ''I am innocent of these charges, yet I would be remiss
both in my faith and as a human being if I did not express my profound and
sincere grief for all the victims in this most regrettable tragedy.''
Al-Amin's brother, Eddie Brown, says supporters have raised about half of
the $400,000 to $500,000 needed for a proper defense.
''Justice is not cheap.... Only poor people end up on death row,'' he says.
The trial was originally scheduled for last September, but a county judge
postponed it because of fears of an anti-Muslim backlash in the aftermath
of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Al-Amin said he didn't think any anti-Muslim backlash from the attacks
would make much difference in his defense. ''Our case will be our case,''
The shooting incident is the second this decade involving Al-Amin, an
Atlanta religious leader known for helping to clear out drug dens in the
city's West End community.
In 1995, he was accused of assault and weapons possession when a man
claimed Al-Amin had shot him. The charges were dropped when the victim
claimed police pressured him to finger the Muslim leader.
Like many of the leaders of the Black Power movement, Al-Amin has had a
long, tortured history with police.
Named Minister of Justice of the Black Panther Party in 1968, an honorary
title, the former SNCC leader claims that the FBI has more than 44,000
pages in files on his Civil Rights and Black Power movement activities.
Al-Amin had called for Blacks to rise up in insurrection, claiming in 1967
that violence was ''as American as cherry pie.''
In 1970, Al-Amin was added to the FBI's ''Most Wanted'' list after fleeing
from federal weapons charges. Captured in 1971, the man who was born Hubert
Gerold Brown in Baton Rouge, La., converted to Islam in prison and changed
His name and religion has changed from his Black Power Movement days, but
Al-Amin still holds many of his views. He explained he made his ''cherry
pie'' statement to shatter the illusion of the United States as a pure,
virginal nation. Mentioning the Columbine shooting and the Oklahoma City
bombing, he asserts brute force is still the focus of American culture.
''I think that what is true then is true now,'' he says.
Al-Amin also says he sees no irony in the fact that both officers he is
accused of shooting are Black, as his prosecutor, Fulton County, Ga.
District Attorney Paul Howard, the first Black to hold that post in the state.
''[As I said decades ago,] to be Black is necessary, but not sufficient,''
says the Muslim cleric. ''If you're going to fight a green soldier, go get
a green soldier.'' People choose sides based on their beliefs, not on skin
color, he adds.
Al-Amin has been jailed two years in March. The hardest part of being
locked away, he says, is that he is not around to guide his 14-year-old son
Kairi to manhood.
''It affects me greatly that I've not been there to shape him as an
African-American man,'' he says. ''This is the story for most
African-American men-the absence of the father, the absence of the man.''
Eddie Brown, Al Amin's brother, says, ''Jamil recognizes that his son ends
up paying a big price because of the absence of his father.''
Says Brown: ''It's always difficult, but we do our best under the
circumstances. You can never prepare for this...We recognize that whatever
price we're paying, he's paying double.''
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