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Lorenzo Ervin Reports From Chattanooga
by Lorenzo Komboa Ervin
Monday Jan 22nd, 2001 10:16 PM
Part 2: The Jury Selection
The jury selection gave the surest indicator that we were to be literally railroaded to jail, with no pretense of a fair trial. It was amazing, comical even, if our lives were not involved. The next door neighbor of the prosecutor was there, along with personal friends of the attorneys, and others who should never have been chose, and should have been stricken by the court judge herself. Instead, we had to use our few (12) perempetory challenges to get rid of these people. All of this had been planned in advance by county judicial officials, so that we would get the most biased jury possible. We ended up with a biased jury of 13 people (including one alternate), which were primarily old, white, and prejudiced. Mostly from suburban white areas which loathed Black people. The prosecution was allowed to systematically strike four of the seven Black people who had made it onto the jury. It was this jury which was supposed to impartiall! y judge us.

The jury selection actully took all day, because we pressured the attorneys to fight each removal of a Black juror. Four Black women, working class or persons who believed that police lie and frame up people were proven to be \"unfit\" by the states attorney. Of course, the biased judge went along with this without a peep, in fact justified it. We were left with two patriotic \"clones\" of Colin Powell, who had been in the military for many years, and swa it a civic duty to convict us. The one Black womn who did make it was actually part of a number of co-workers from Mckee Bakery, one of which was a jury foreman at another trial and her boss. He literally ordered her to find us guilty when he would see her at work each evening after the trial.

It was during the second day that the Hamilton County Sheriff, John Cupp staged the event of having an agent provocateur come into the courtroom with a gun and a bag of ammunition, described variously as .38 calibre \"hollow-point\" and .9 mm bullets). Then we saw a guy run out of the courtroom, screaming that he was going to get some of \"bin Laden\'s men\". Although he had come up to us during the lunchtime break when we were having a demonstration outside, none of us knew the man by name. This agent who called himself \"Omar\" shook our hands and then stood around (perhaps for police photographers in hiding to film us together) all during the deomnstrator. It was as we were getting ready to return to court for the afternoon session that a flood of police officers waded in and blocked our entrance. They bellowed out that all persons who were going to attend this trial would have to be searched, and surrender their possessions to offeres for inspection. They provided no explanation.

When we got inside however, we were finally told of the incident, and the first person in the room, Damon McGee, was even shown the bullets by an officer, and then told that the man had a gun. This guy claimed that he and his colleagues removed the man from the courtroom, but when we suspiciously asked why the guy wasn\'t arrested, were met with blank stares. When we demanded that our attorneys call for a hearing on the incident, they refused and the judge refused to even address the issue.

Yet it was the main news story the next day, AND ALL OF THE NEWS STORIES SEEMED TO IMPLY THAT WE WE TRYING TO ESCAPE, TO DISRUPT THE TRIAL, THAT \'OMAR\' WAS PART OF A PLOT, AND OTHER LURID (but untrue)THINGS. Now, add this to the totally negative reporting going on EACH DAY of this case, and clearly the jury (and the whole city) was beseiged with negative propaganda. That is why we had tried to get a change of venue to Knoxville in the first place, but the judge would not have it, and she also turned down our motion for mistrial. It took us pressuring our weak court appointed lawyers to get them to even rasie our demands that three jurors known to have discussed this be removed from the trial. They finally did raise it, and we were to proceed with 10 jurors, although what we really wanted to do is to get rid of the entire jury.

This provocation was apparently done by the Sheirff to not only prejudice the jury and make them fear for their lives, but also justify Sheriff Cupp\'s demands for additional money for tighter courtroom security. Now it\'s my understand that not only did he not arrest \"Omar\", but actually returned the bullets to him so that he could television interviews with them. They were never kept as evidence anyway. Now underestand that there is a law in Tennessee, T.C.A. 39-17-1306, which allows for up to 7 years in prison for bring a gun or bullets in a courtroom, so how is this guy allowed to brag on television about bringing the bullets into our trial. Purportedly, as soon as he wlaked in , he sauntered over and gave them to a cop. This was clearly a set-up! We face the danger now of an additional prosecution by racist court and cop officials.

It took about an hour for the jury to find us guilty, there was no deliberation and actually no trial. We did not have the effective assistance of legal counsel. It was clear from the beginning that our court-appointed attorneys were throwing the case, and was not interested in an aggressive defense. In fact, I do not think they were capable of doing so, they were not even aware of free speech or First Amendment law, and had virtually no skills. But because we are poor people, we did not have the money to hire high-priced talent. The truth is that in America, you are innocent until found broke! That is why the prisons are full of Black and Latino and poor white people, and each one of them had an attorney!

Where do we go from here? First, we appeal the case if we can get other attorneys. No one has stepped forward to help us yet, and the local lawyers in Chattanooga are pretty much out of the question. We may have to file an appeal without a lawyer, rather than risk being sold out again by a quack incompetent lawyer from the Public Defender\'s office. In fact, I sought to represent myself at trial, but was illegally prevented from doing so by the trial judge. The disgrace is that the Left Legal community, civil rights groups and others will not even answer our letters, less known discuss the matter.

The Chattanooga 3 case is still one of the most serious First Amendment cases in this country. Because of our railroading, it is NOW that much easier to crush demonstrators in Washington, D.C. (on April 16th), the Republican and Democratic Conventions, where hundreds were arrested under similar disruption statutes. We need to understand that these disruption statutes are the U.S. government\'s new COINTELPRO and \"thought control\" measures to intimidate activists with criminal charges and beat down legal forms of dissent. YET WE DID NOT RECEIVE THE LEVEL OF SUPPORT THAT WE WERE ENTITLED TO, we were sold out by both Black and Left political factions that disagree with our politics and militant stance on police brutality. Legal groups that are active in such cases refused to support us, political groups refused to make a peep, and influential individuals who could have helped us raise money were unresponsive. But remember this: if we are allowed to be ! crushed, or be jailed without a fight by groups of activists all over the country, then all of you will be next. You need to understand this. Even if you disagree with our Anarchist politics, our form of Black radicalism, or whatever else you see yourself apart from, the government does not care. The government wants to crush us all! We must give solidarity to one another when the state btrings charges: Anarchist, communist or any variant of Black radical. Anything else is a sellout of our principles.


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