News from the Inside
Prison officials continue to refuse mental health care for Louis Zawacki:
Despite continued attempts by family and advocates to have Louis Zawacki transferred to SCI
Waymart for proper mental health treatment, the DOC
still will do nothing. Louis’ full story can be found here
. An independent report by Dr. M. David McGeorge was sent to numerous officials within the DOC
, including Secretary of Corrections, John Wetzel and the warden of SCI
Fayette, Mr. Brian Coleman. In the report, Dr. McGeorge presents Louis’ history of psychological and mental health issues, as well as the possible onset of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD
) due to the assault experienced in May 2011 at SCI
Fayette. “Based on a thorough review of available records and experience in various correctional settings,” concludes Dr. McGeorge, “I would recommend that Louis Zawacki receive a comprehensive multidisciplinary evaluation and recommended treatment such as is available at SCI
Secretary Wetzel sent a response to Louis’ mother assuring her that he is receiving the appropriate treatment and that a transfer to SCI Waymart is not warranted. Louis continues to be housed in solitary confinement, as do many other inmates with serious mental illness. As has been well documented, prolonged isolation only proves to exacerbate mental illness. Despite the independent report from Dr. McGeorge, a licensed Psychologist with access to all of Louis’ medical history and thus a more comprehensive grasp of Louis’ diagnoses and needs, the DOC continues to ignore the problem.
Louis’ story is included in the testimony that will be presented to the hearing on Solitary Confinement organized by State Rep. Ronald Waters of the Democratic House Policy Committee, scheduled to be at Temple University on September 18, 2012.
Re-trial in 18 year-old murder case set to begin:
On Wednesday, August 29, the Justice for Terrell Campaign, the Human Rights Coalition-Fed Up! chapter, and community members gathered outside the City County building
in Pittsburgh in support of Terrell Johnson, a resident of the Hazelwood neighborhood who was framed and convicted on a murder charge in 1995. The rally and press conference was held in advance of Terrell’s upcoming re-trial that begins on September 4.
Terrell won a new trial in 2009 which has been postponed for three years. He was offered a deal in 2010 to accept a lesser plea of 7-15 years and could have walked out of prison on time served. He refused the deal because he is innocent. His new trial was granted after newly discovered evidence proved the Commonwealth’s only witness that implicated him in the homicide, Evelyn McBride, was lying and cutting deals with the cops in exchange for favorable treatment in her own cases. Because of the lack of evidence against Terrell and the shaky testimony of the prosecutions only witness, Evelyn McBryde, the DA has convinced the victim’s mother, Barbara Robinson, to testify against Terrell.
Verna Robinson was murdered on July 21, 1994, after Pittsburgh police officers dropped her off at her mother’s home in Hazelwood instead of placing her in protective custody. Verna was supposed to be in the witness protection program because of her testimony regarding another shooting in Hazelwood. Two other men were charged in the shooting death of Verna Robinson. One was convicted of a lesser charge of conspiracy. The other was exonerated due to competent lawyering that exposed Evelyn McBryde as an unbelievable witness.
Although Barbara Robinson, the victim’s mother, testified at all three previous trials that she could not identify any of the people who killed her daughter, she has now changed her story and said she could identify one of the assailants as Terrell.
“There is no physical evidence in this case,” says Saundra Cole, Terrell’s wife and lead organizer of the Justice for Terrell campaign. “Every night, the cops and Commonwealth attorneys who conspired to frame Terrell and continue to hold him despite the proven absence of evidence get to go home to their family. Terrell goes to sleep in a prison cell while his wife and children are forced to go another day without him at home.” Saundra is confident that the long awaited trial will finally provide the opportunity to “let justice prevail” in this case.
To review Justice for Terrell Campaign archives, including previous news
articles, relevant interviews and all Innocence Institute articles visit
Mumia challenges life without parole sentence: Last week Mumia Abu-Jamal filed a last minute appeal to the imposition of a sentence of life without parole after a federal appeals court holding vacating the death sentence was upheld. Jamal was framed for the killing of police officer Daniel Faulkner in a 1982 trial marked by systematic violations of his rights. This latest appeal comes in response to a Philadelphia judge’s attempt to impose a sentence in secret and in the absence of Jamal.
In 2001 the Federal Courts set aside Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death sentence. Just last December, after ten years of bitter and protracted appeals, the District Attorney of Philadelphia (Seth Williams) publicly announced that he would not hold a penalty phase hearing, and pursue the imposition of a death sentence. Williams conceded that legally and politically the District Attorney’s office would not succeed getting a Philadelphia jury to vote for death in this case.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was then summarily moved by the Department of Corrections off of death row at SCI Greene (he had been in solitary confinement on death row for nearly 30 years) and into a minimum security prison at SCI Mahanoy.
On Monday August 13th, in a highly irregular action, Common Pleas Court President Judge Pamela Dembe without notice issued an order sentencing Mumia Abu-Jamal to life in prison without parole. There was no notice given to any party prior to the order. There was no notice of the order after its execution until, eight days after this irregularity was uncovered. In another oddity, the order was issued under the name Wesley Cook, without reference to his legal name (Mumia Abu-Jamal) the name under which his court records have been filed for thirty years.
Mumia as soon as he became aware of this action (as he had no formal notice from the court) filed a pro se challenge to this imposition of a sentence by the court. This motion challenging his sentence was delivered to the court by attorney Rachel Wolkenstein, who had received it from Mumia that morning, and it was filed within minutes of the statutory deadline required to challenge the order.
Mumia Abu-Jamal’s pro se petition challenges the order on both procedural and constitutional grounds. The imposition of life imprisonment violates cruel and unusual punishment and violates international standards on torture. In addition, his petition states that his three decades of imprisonment are a result of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct, as he is innocent.
For interviews with Rachel Wolkenstein, Pam Africa, Ramona Africa, and journalist Linn Washington, visit Prison Radio.
DOJ Argues for Secrecy in Dispute Over Special Federal Prison Unit: The Justice Department is defending its refusal not to release certain information federal authorities used to place inmates in a restrictive prison setting that limits communication and bans physical contact with the outside world.
A Justice Department lawyer, Nicholas Cartier, urged a federal judge in Washington yesterday to allow the government to keep sensitive law enforcement information from three inmates who are challenging their transfer to the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ so-called “communications management unit.”
The suit against the Justice Department, filed in April 2010 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges federal officials failed to provide adequate notice and justification about the transfers to the communications units. Lawyers for the prisoners describe the communication restrictions as part of an “experimental” prison unit.
Ricardo Urbina, a Washington federal district court judge, in March 2011 declined to throw out the suit, teeing up a discovery dispute that is now pending before a magistrate judge.
The prisoners, represented by Weil, Gotshal & Manges and the Center for Constitutional Rights, are demanding access to more information about their detention. The prisoners also want to know more about the transfers of other inmates into the communication management units.
“We just want to know how these decisions were made,” said Weil litigation associate Andrey Spektor, a member of the firm’s appellate practice group.
Spektor in court criticized the government’s “illusory” designation process, and he said transfer notices give vague, general reasons using terms such as the “recruitment” and “radicalization” of inmates. Redacted information could reveal, he said, whether the decision to place a certain inmate in the special unit was retaliatory or discriminatory.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers, who include Alexis Agathocleous of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, said they want to assess the language in other transfer notices of more than 150 current or former inmates assigned to the communications management unit.
“The lack of process associated with CMU placement and retention has applied to all prisoners who at some point have been designated to these units,” the prisoners’ lawyers said in court papers filed in June.
Robinson, the judge, did not immediately rule yesterday. She did not indicate when she would issue a decision.
Taken from The Blog of Legal Times
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