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Attica Inmates Facing Trial

Attica Inmates Facing Trial image
Parent Issue
Day
9
Month
August
Year
1974
OCR Text

''We have to understand the way in which At tica is all of us. Attica is symbolic of the i way in which power has been taken and abt used in this country, the way in which your power has been stolen from you, twisted ] and distorted and used against you, the [ way in which officials have become the outstanding crimináis. We 've got to understand how the lawless ness oflaw officials, which is symbolic of Attica, is carried out daily. We 've got to understand the official mur der that takes place not only with the 43 people who died at Attica but the official I murder that took place at Orangeburg, at Kent State, at Jackson State, Southern Uni versity, Fred Hampton, Mark Clark. " -Hayward Burns, Legal Coördinator A ttica Brothers Legal Defense n September 13, 1971, New W York State troopers put an abrupt and deadly end tb the four-day Attica prison rebelj lion. When the gas and smoke cleared and I the thunder of gunfire faded, 39 men lay i dead; 80 more were wounded. It took coni siderably longer for the haze of false rumors i and press releases, stating that the pólice i seige of Attica was precipitated by inmates' i cutting of hostages' throats, to be penetrated and the true story exposed. The McKay commission, officially appointed to investígate the rebellion, did much to correct distorted media reports by revealing its findings that: -Hostages' throats had not been cut. Autopsy reports indicated that hostages and inmates alike had been murdered by New York State troopers' bullets. Hostages reported that they'd been very well treated by the prisoners. - The xebellion was NOT a senseless, carnival riot. It grew out of prisoners' .deeply-felt bitterness and frustration, engendered by a degrading and inhuman prison experience in which demands for adequate food, wages, rehabilitation, etc, were ignored. -The violent re-taking of Attica might well have been averted by state officials in a number of ways. Most notably, the i i commission feit that had Gov. Rock efeller not refused to come to ca, a peaceful end to the uprising might have been possible. i -In the aftermath of the massacre, i ers and guards visited terror, i i ty. and torture i upon the : prisoners, : forcing % i them ; to strip i naked i and run i a gaunti letof I billy í clubs and verba] abuse. Despite the McKay Commission's well'documented findings, laying heavy blame on the state j ciáis lor the tyranny that tostered the rebeilion, the bloodshed that ended it, and the brutality that followed it, the Grand Jury empanelled in the wake of the rebeilion has to date issued 61 indictments against 42 inmates: not a single state official or employee has been ch'árge d with a single crime. ,On the surface puzzling, this paradox becomes comprehensible when the pgsition of the Grand Jury is viewed. The Grand Jury was drawn from the small rural community in which Attica prison is located: the economy of the región centers around, and is dependent upon, Attica State Prison. Indeed, nearly half of the Grand Jury members have friends and relatives employed at the prison, including ex-hostages. When the obvious injustice of indicting only inmates became embarrassing to the prosécution, and the first Grand Jury made clear -its refusal to indict state officials or employees, a second, additional Grand Jury was formed last May for the ostensible purpose of handing down some "token" indictmènts of state troopers. Drawn from the samë county as the original Grand Jury, the second Grand Jury has yet to issue such an indictment . the trials of the Attica Brothers are scheduled to begin in Buffalo, New York during the first week of September. The problems that have faced the Attica Brothers Legal Defense (ABLD) are staggering. The defense, comprised of over 50 attorneys from throughout the country (most of whom are volunteenng their services), numeróus legal workers and law students, and the indicted brothers themselves, have had to prepare their defense despite su'ch obstacles as: nances. To date, the tion has received more than six million dollars to pare lor the trials. Although the Attica Brothers, many of whom are still in jail, are indigent, the defense has not been granted a single cent of official monies, and has been able to exist only by private contributions. -Investigation. There are 400 eyewitnesses to the rebellion scattered throughout the the state of New York who should be inter viewed. The resources, in terms of peoplehours and money, required to accomplish such a task is staggering. -Discovery. Although the judge ordered the prosecution to 1 W hand over certain relevant evidence to the w aeiense, ïncludmg photographs, video tapes, films, ñames and addresses of witnesses, etc., the secution has been extremely uncooperative and late in complying. After several months' delay, for example, the defense was presented with only 1 600 of 2000 ordered photographs - the prosecution didn't even teil the defense that some photographs were missing until the last second. Continued Brutalization of Indicted Brothers. On April 29 of this year, the Attica Brothers and the prosecution staff were. to declare their readiness for trial at a court hearing. When told that they'd