Wednesday, July 19, 2006

“Killing Time” by Dave Lindorff; “Inadmissible Evidence” by Evelyn A. Williams. Here are two terrific books describing the legal machinations involved behind the state’s persecution (prosecution) of two well-known radical, African-American activists: Mumia Abu-Jamal and Assata Shukur. “Killing Time” is an investigative-journalist style account of the painful to read events that lead to the arrest of Mumia Abu-Jamal and the trial and various appeals that followed. It is perhaps the more controversial of the two books because it does not assume or conclude that Mumia is innocent. I understand that some among the Free Mumia movement have criticized the book, and Lindorff has been called “Mumia Pimp” by the always-colorful MOVE organization. Nevertheless, for someone like myself who is new to the details of this case, “Killing Time” seems the perfect place to begin. Lindorff is consistently fair and impartial and describes the many, many times Mumia’s rights were violated and just how unjust the so-called justice system can so often be. His conclusion is “I am convinced beyond not just a reasonable doubt but beyond any doubt whatsoever, that Mumia Abu-Jamal did not receive even the approximation of a fair trial.” When asked as he says he always is “did he actually shoot” the police officer Mumia was accused of having killed… “the answer has to be maybe.” My own conclusion would be that Mumia should be free regardless of what he originally did or did not do. He has spent as much or more time in prison as many a white man accused of similar charges, and he is such an important and vital member of our community able to accomplish so much from behind bars. Imagine all the good he could do for society, if this peace loving man was not isolated within the confines of the horrendous U.S. penal system. “Inadmissible Evidence” is written in the form of a memoir, by the aunt and attorney of legendary Black Panther and Black Liberation Army, activist Assata Shukur. Williams describes important events of her own life before and after Assata’s trial, but the majority of the book describes the endless efforts of the state to incarcerate her beloved niece, and their ultimate fabulous failure to keep her in prison. “Inadmissible Evidence” is an excellent account of one woman’s struggle to fight the endless oppression of African-Americans, of battles won and battles lost. At times there are annoying holes in the narrative, that leave this reader anxious to know more details of what happened and why. Sometimes these holes remain unfilled. For instance, Williams describes an attempted murder of herself by a guard outside a courtroom in New York. The result of the attack was that Williams was arrested. The 200 plus pound guard received no charges. Williams does not follow-up this account with further details of why this happened. Perhaps it is obvious, and I am just being dense. Maybe this sort of thing happens all the time to middle aged African-American lawyers within the halls of American Justice. Perhaps, the details are simply not there to give. Williams was also involved in numerous other crucial efforts to bring true justice to poor and oppressed people, before and after Assata’s legal battles. Early in her career she helped place the two sons of Julus and Ethel Rosenberg with their surviving family members. Late in her career she tried to represent Solomon Brown who was arrested along with David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin in the October 20, 1981 Brinks armored car robbery. Brown was tortured by the police and FBI until broken and became a witness for the prosecution. Though sympathetic to his situation, Williams was forced to sever her relationship with her client once he began working with the FBI. According to Williams: “once a person collaborates with the FBI, for whatever reason – whether inducement, fear, or the hope of assistance – that person can never again be trusted”. Again and again Williams and her amazing family are in places where important events in the history of the movement to resist the evils of racism and imperialism unfold. She tells the story with compassion, passion and intelligence seldom found in something so dry as a “legal memoir”.


Blogger Tony Allen said...

Perhaps a better place to start on Jamal's case would be the transcripts which are availble online at

Lindorff's book is plagued by his own political leanings.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Glen said...

Thanks for the comment. It is nice to see someone who actually appears to have read something I wrote, even if they are not happy with what they have read. I will check out the site you recommend when I have the time.

12:11 AM  

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