JUSTICE FOR THE GADSDEN 6: Black Children Are A Commodity In the Criminal Justice System

The Gadsden 6. Clockwise from Top Left to Right: Roland Martin, Melvin Ray (Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun), Fred Brown, Steven Stewart, Curtis Richardson (not pictured) and Archie Hamlet.

On March 24, 1988, at appx. 1:00 am, these six Black men were arrested in Gadsden, Alabama, for the burglary of a Belk Hudson department store. At the time, we were all 16 years of age or younger, and considered children by Alabama law.

After our arrest, we were taken to the police precinct, where we would be questioned for several hours, without any attorneys being present and without any of our parents being notified of where we were or what was going on.

When the interrogation ended around 4:00 am, the police officers, appx. four to six, all white, were satifised that we could be charged with over 30 felony counts of burglary and theft offense, not only for the burglary of that night but for several other unsolved burglaries as well.

Later that same morning of March 24, after spending a few more hours being processed into the youth facility, we were hauled into court for what was supposed to have been an initial appearance hearing. The only adults present for this hearing were the judge, the prosecutor, several of the police officers, and a case worker.

What transpired next . . .

Once in the courtroom, we were supposed to have a what in Alabama is called an “initial appearance” hearing where we received an explanation of the charges against us and be informed of our rights, including the right to have attorneys and to have our parents present with us in court to contest the charges.

Instead, something else happened that would affect us for the rest of their life.

The judge, prosecutor and the police held a private conference outside of our presence and beyond our ability to hear what was going on. When they adjourned, the prosecutor and the judge did all of the talking. The prosecutor stated that there would be a “stipulation” or admission of probable cause by the state in behalf of all six of us — to all 30-plus charges. The police officer concurred. The judge then stated that he accepted the stipulation and entered the stipulation into the official record of the court. We never spoke. Never knew what the word “stipulation” meant of what was going on.

MARCH 24, 1988 CASE ACTION SUMMARY FROM GADSDEN, ALA JUVENILE COURT WHERE THE “STIPULATION” WAS ENTERED BY THE COURT

This stipulation is extremely unethical and highly unusual. First and foremost, no one, not a judge, prosecutor, or police officer can stipulate to a criminal charge for anyone on their first appearance in court. And even worse, this was done to children who did not have attorneys and whose parents were never notified and were not present.

The imagery of this scene and how these adults committed these acts against these children is undeniable: A white judge. White prosecutor. All white police officers. Both case workers white. The only Black face in the room were those of six children. We were not viewed as children but as feeder stock for the system of Mass Incarceration. With the stipulation, we could now be transferred to adult court where we could receive real felony convictions and all of the disabilities that come with that.

It hard to imagine that in a period of just a few short hours, six children could be arrested, interrogated for over three hours by a group of all- white police detectives, charged with over 30 felony offenses, and then taken into a courtroom without an attorney or even a parent present, only to have the prosecutor and police make an admission of guilt for them, which a judge then dutifully accepts before ordering the children detained.

 

After this stipulation was made, all six of us would ultimately be transferred to adult court were we would suffer convictions that would be with us for the rest of our lives. The problem is that we never should have been in adult court in the first place. The proceedings in juvenile court were illegal and unethical. Today, we are fighting for the justice that we were entitled to in 1988.

Join the fight for Justice for The Gadsden 6 as we demand that the judgement and orders issued by Juvenile Judge Robert E. Lewis and the actions of the prosecutor be declared unconstitutional and void. The record of these convictions still stand today, and they must be corrected.

GADSDEN 6

Justice for The Gadsden 6

Justice for The Gadsden 6

Gadsden 6 photogrid

Clockwise from top left: Roland Martin, Melvin Ray, Fred Brown, Steve Stewart, Curtis Richardson, Archie Hamlet

Introduction

When Children are exploited by the Juvenile Justice System in Alabama

Thirty-one years ago on March 24, 1988, six Black children, all under the age of 17, Fred Brown, Archie Hamlet, Roland Martin, Melvin Ray, Curtis Richardson and Steve Stewart, were arrested by Gadsden police in the early morning hours around 1:00 am, for a department store burglary. After their arrest, these six children were taken to the police station for a three-hours long interrogation. The children were not represented by attorneys and their parents were not present during this interrogation.

The interrogations were conducted by an all-white group of 4 to 6 detectives. When the interrogation was completed around 4:00 am, these children were charged with over 30 felony offenses involving several unsolved burglaries in Gadsden.

Just a few hours after this early-morning interrogation ended, police and the district attorney’s office then marched these children into court for an initial appearance hearing that quickly turned into a full fledged probable cause detention hearing. None of the children were represented in court by an attorney, and none of their parents were present. It was just the judge, police, and the D.A.

At the hastily erected probable cause detention hearing, which was orchestrated by the juvenile court judge, the DA and police, the judge allowed the D.A. to stipulate to probable cause on behalf of all six children to ALL 30-plus charges pending against them.
This illegal probable cause stipulation would then be used to justify continued detention of these children and removal from their homes, parents and siblings.

Juvenile Court Judge Robert E. Lewis’ order states:

“At detention hearing probable cause stipulated to and child ordered detained. . .”

Copy of Melvin Ray's Detention Hearing sheet

Copy of Melvin Ray’s Detention Hearing sheet

As the above court record shows, attorneys were not appointed until April 6, 1988, two full weeks after the arrest and “probable cause” stipulation were made.

Meanwhile, the Gadsden 6 remained in detention for over a month, until April 27, 1988, when the juvenile court judge granted the prosecutor’s motion to transfer these children to adult court. The juvenile court judge granted the prosecutor’s motion to transfer on the same day that it was filed, without conducting a transfer hearing or even notifying anyone that the motion had been filed.

None of the children were present when this motion was heard, no one was served notice of the prosecutor’s motion, the children did not have legal representation to review the motion or present evidence in their behalf, and none of their parents were present when the motion was heard or granted. Injustice was administered behind closed doors when no one was looking…

On to Adult Court…

Once in adult court, the Gadsden 6 were given an ultimatum: plead guilty to all charges and go home that day with sentences of time served and probation, or take a chance on trial and spend the next decade of their lives in prison. The authorities in Gadsden saddled these young black children with over 20 adult felony convictions that would follow them for the rest of their lives, and through a process that guaranteed injustice, as no one was present during the juvenile proceedings to protect the constitutional rights of these children or the parental rights of their parents.

These illegally prior felony convictions have been used in subsequent adult proceedings to enhance many of the Gadsden 6’s sentences under Alabama’s draconian habitual felony offender law, resulting in an additional 50-plus years of illegal time being served, including two instances where life without parole was illegally imposed.

Join the Gadsden 6’s demand for justice !!!

  1. All proceedings and convictions be declared null and void and removed from their records.
  2. All records in juvenile and adult court be expunged.
  3. Compensation and acknowledgement of the wrongful nature of the proceedings used against them, including full legal pardons.

Sign our petition to the Alabama Legislature and the Alabama courts to rectify this injustice put upon the Gadsden 6 by the Gadsden Police Department, the Gadsden DA, and the Juvenile & Adult Divisions of the Circuit Court of Etowah County, Alabama.

Follow the GADSDEN 6 on Facebook @ Justice For The Gadsden 6.

Gadsden 6 Supporters at Courtroom 29 July 2019

Gadsden 6 Supporters at the Montgomery Courtroom, 29 July 2019

July 29, 2019 court hearing in Montgomery, AL

Justice for the Gadsden 6 poster

Justice for the Gadsden 6 poster

IGNORANCE OF THE LAW IS NO EXCUSE – A new Educational Curriculum is what we can build

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The vast majority of people that are charged with a crime have no knowledge of the law or the court procedures,  therefore they are appointed an attorney- paid for by the same people seeking to convict you.  In most instances,  these court appointed attorneys are given a flat rate payment,  have a case load of paying clients and no incentive to fight for their court appointed clients.  In fact they persuade most clients to plead guilty regardless of the evidence.

However,  that is not the worst part, as once a person is convicted and sent to prison, they have absolutely no counsel.  You become your own attorney and you are expected to know the law,  court procedures,  time limitations and the protocol for writing legal documents.
It is documented that a person’s lack of knowledge and skills in Court Proceedings is no excuse.

It’s odd that these people really expect a common person to know and understand the law when it takes lawyers, judges, district attorneys, and etc. 6 to 8 years of school to learn the basics of the law. As, even after they complete school many still don’t know enough to be successful in their practice- it takes experience in the court room to actually be competent enough to be labeled successful at it.

So how in the Hell can it logically be expected of everyday Men, Women and Children – many without a high school education – know what it takes to win in a court room?
By the time he/she learns enough to defend themself and understand the level of comprehension it takes to be successful in most cases,  it’s too late due to deadlines to file a proper petition.

A lawyer is supposedly appointed to represent you in order to defend or protect your rights but really they are appointed to keep you in the blind to the evil plot the judicial system is laying out against you and your life. I speak from first hand observations and experience,  as I’m a living witness to how it works.

The actions or lack of proper actions by my -and thousands of others- Court Appointed Attorney contributed to my Wrongful Conviction. Then continued improper actions lead to myself-and thousands of others- being Procedurally Barred from adequate Appellate Reviews.
This is a sad and tragic reality for far to many people- Tricked into a Slave System then expected to know how to correct it, in a set limit of time.

It’s a Set-up …by design and scheme. …

We can sit back and allow it to continue or We can Organize then create OUTREACH STREET LAW / LIFE SKILLS PROGRAMS in our Communities. With an Educational Curriculum that teaches Our Children the laws and procedures before they come into contact with the Legal System-As statistics verify that millions of them will in their lifetime.

A Curriculum that informs and teaches about:

1. History of the US Constitution

2. What is the Law?

a. United State Code Service

b. Code of 1975

c. Procedural Law

3. Rules of Court:

a. Criminal Procedures

b. Evidence

c. Appellate Procedure

d. Post Conviction Procedure

e. Civil Procedures

4. Habeas Corpus/ 2254 U.S.C.S Petition

5. Certificate of Appealability (COA )

6. Writ of Certiorari/ US SUPREME COURT

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This is just a suggested curriculum,  based on HALIFAX COUNTY (Where I learned and observed the results). If you choose to accept or follow this curriculum or not– we NEED Men and Women, in our Community, with the knowledge and skills to create some kind of programs that counter the IGNORANCE OF THE LAW Set Up.

KNOWLEDGE is the only remedy to this Systems IGNORANCE OF THE LAW. .IS NO EXCUSE sickness.

FREE DA F.A.M. 3

Photo of Free Alabama Movement 3 and text Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.

Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.

PART 3

FREE THE F.A.M. 3: Non Violent and Peaceful Demonstrations threatened ADOC’s “Violent Culture of Control” Policies

FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT
P.O. BOX 186
NEW MARKET, AL 35761

Phone: 256-985-1126

freealabamamovement@gmail.com
http://www.freealabamamovement.com

“FREEDOM OR DEATH. AINT NUTHIN ELSE. . . STOP PLAYING WITH THE CONCEPT.”  Dhati

Ever since solitary confinement came into existence, it has been used as a tool of repression.

While it is justified by corrections officials as necessary to protect prisoners and guards from violent super predators, all too often it is imposed on individuals, particularly prisoners of color, who threaten prison administrations in an altogether different way. Consistently, jailhouse lawyers and jailhouse doctors, who administer to the needs of their fellow prisoners behind bars, are placed in solitary confinement. They are joined by political prisoners from various civil rights and independence movements.”

And that’s exactly what Alabama is doing with their Solitary Confinement- using it to repress and torture anyone that speaks the words FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT. For exposing Alabama’s on going Human Rights violation  James Pleasant, Robert Earl Council and Melvin  Ray were targeted, singled out and labeled “threats to the security of the ADOC,” then placed in Solitary Confinement with indeterminate sentences.

At the time that these men made their decisions to address the ongoing Civil and Human Rights violations that were apparent in the ADOC, the prisons were historically overcrowded, there was a wave of violence brewing statewide throughout the prisons, living conditions were deplorable, food and healthcare we severely substandard and causing many illnesses and death, and the prison administrators, commissioners, and wardens were all refusing to respond and address the complaints.

Then, on January 1, 2014, under the banner of FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT, a Non-Violent and Peaceful Protest for Civil and Human Rights was launched at Holman  Prison, as over 1000 men went on shutdown [work stoppage].

Three days later, on January 4, 2014, 1300 more at St. Clair Prison joined in.  These demonstrations remained peaceful the entire time. ADOC officials  acknowledged to the AP that these demonstrations were peaceful:

“On Saturday, Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett acknowledged to the Associated Press that since New Year’s Day, at least some prisoners have refused to work in kitchen and laundry areas and perform other jobs.”

“Corbett told the AP that the protests at the St. Clair and Holman Correctional facilities have been peaceful . . .”

[http://alreporter.com/in-case-you-missed-it-2/5571-alabama-prisoners-strike-continues.html]

Unfortunately for approximately 8 families with loved ones in ADOC, these peaceful ended too soon, because over the course of the next 14 months after the demonstrations ended, with no intervention or improvements from ADOC, approximately 8 men were killed. and hundreds more have been stabbed.

* Our beloved Lil Mook, Marquette Cummins, who came to prison at 17 lost his physical life on January 6, 2015, on the second day of the shutdown. His Spirit lives on and serves as a reminder to us all that we must bring these prisons to an end because they ccontinue to take life, yet give nothing of value in return.

ST CLAIR DEATHSAlso, at the same time that these peaceful demonstrations were concluding, the US DOJ issued a report detail the two-decades long horror story that emanated from Julia Tutwiler Women’s Prison in Wetumpka, AL.

According to the report, which was completed after a long investigation, the women confined at Tutwiler had been raped, impregnated, sexually assaulted, abused and exploited for sex for over two decades. Children were born. Children were aborted. Women were beaten and raped, and it was estimated that at least 1/3 of the ENTIRE corrections staff had been involved in the abuses. In that time, less than 10 officers has been prosecuted, and the most time handed out was 6 months, with one officer getting 5 days.

Now, approximately 14 months later, and exclusively for organizing a “non-violent and peaceful protest”, these three men, Robert Earl Council, James Pleasant, and Melvin Ray, have all been labelled a “security threat”. In addition, F.A.M. and the family members and supporters, including those who had lost a loved one to the violence and who were supporting F.A.M.’s call for an end to the violence, were also labelled as a security threat.

Under ADOC rules, violence such as riots, assaults, destroying property, etc., all fall under security threats. In fact, under ADOC rules, a person who commits a murder while in ADOC custody must serve 30 [months] in solitary confinement. Yet, the people who are trying to stop this avoidable and senseless loss of life are subjected to indefinitely periods of solitary confinement. In other words, if any member of the F.A.M. 3 were guilty of committing a murder, they could look to be released from segregation in a definite period of time of 30 months, but for engaging in peaceful protests against the conditions that lead to violence and murder, these men became “security threats.”

Not a single ADOC rules prohibits “Non-Violent and Peaceful” demonstrations. In fact, the right to peacefully assemble is guaranteed and protected by the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In response to the protests, in light of the conditions that were exposed by F.A.M. on social media like YouTube and Facebook, Gov. Bentley and Sen. Cam Ward created a Prison Reform Task Force and have since verified EVERY issue that F.A.M. complained of.

Additionally, EJI followed the demonstrations by filing a lawsuit about the violence at St. Clair, were hundreds of people have been assaulted, including one person by the warden, Carter Davenport, who has since been reassigned to another prison (he was a Captain at Tutwiler during the rapes, etc.). The SPLC has filed a lawsuit on the healthcare against ADOC after the demonstrations.

When Gov. Bentley, Sen. Cam Ward, Chief Justice Roy Moore, Attn General Luther Strange and other state officials acknowledged the problems within ADOC that were exposed by F.A.M., THEY were not labelled security threats. When al.com confirmed that Warden Davenport was the root of the violence at St. Clair they were not labelled a security threat. When the US DOJ reported on the abuses at Tutwiler, they were not labelled a security threat.

But when the people who live in the violence, the very people who are forced to live in the inhumane and uncivil conditions complain about the violence with -non-violent and peaceful protests”, they are labelled a threat to security, even where the violence levels, understaffing, and decrepit conditions show that there is NO SECURITY TO THREATEN, and certainly none to threaten with “Non-Violent and Peaceful Protests!!!

Join F.A.M. as we demand answers from ADOC and other Alabama officials about why these men are being punished for complaining about these ongoing civil and human rights violations.

#INCARCERATEDBLACKLIVESMATTERTOO

#freedafam3

McDonald’s Is Feeling The Heat

We haven’t even got started implementing our 6-Step Plan of ACTION 2015 at McDonald’s, but other orgs are already demonstrating. F.A.M. needs to take advantage of this opportunity to organize with these allies:

“The protest was organized by Wisconsin Jobs Now — a non-profit organization that has worked with fast food and retail workers to get higher pay. The organization says complaints have been filed against several McDonald’s in Wisconsin. But officials would not say how many or where.”

http://fox6now.com/2015/03/17/protests-held-outside-wauwatosa-mcdonalds-not-for-wages-but-health-and-safety/

Wake Up Alabama

Wake Up Alabama

Ismail Shabazz

DOC tries to address crowding in Bold letters Montgomery Advertiser January 3, 2012. After reading this story, I obtained a copy of the lawsuit filed in California and if the same was filed in Alabama, this state could be faced with the same. However, here in Alabama, the problem is a lot deeper. One of the biggest reason why Alabama’s prison system is so badly over crowded is because of the way they classify violent and non-violent offenders.

It was over five years ago that the above mentioned story was done and it has truly gotten worst. Here in the state of Alabama whenever you hear something about inmates being released its always said that it will be the non-violent offenders; the drug and property offenders, however, there are thousands of inmates in the ADOC that’s classified as violent offenders whose not actually violent at all.

Let’s look at Third Degree Robbery. By Alabama’s law code of Alabama, 1975 section 13A – 8.43 (a) A person commits the crime of Robbery in the Third Degree if in the course of committing a theft he:

  • Uses force against the person of the owner or any person present with the intent to overcome his physical resistance or physical power of the resistance or,
  • Threatens the imminent use of force against the person of the owner or any person present with the intent to compel acquiescence to the taking of or escaping with the property. This is a Class C Felony, sentencing range 1 yr and a 1 day to ten (10) years.

This is a crime involving no weapon and nowhere in the language of the crime’s elements does it mention violence. Yet, here in the state of Alabama, it’s considered a violent case. They say it’s the threat of violence, but the naked truth in any crime has the potential to become violent.

A shoplifter steals a pack of candy and is approached by security, it can instantly become violent if the shoplifter: (A) Fights (B) Pulls a weapon or (C) If it’s the security guard that fights, overreacts and uses a weapon.

Another perfect example, Friday, February 3, 2012 in The Enterprise Ledger, a man was shot by someone breaking into his car; Theft turned Violent.

What do you think, should a person be considered a violent offender if he has never injured anyone, Or if he’s never been convicted of a crime where a weapon was used?

Deep rooted flaws in the Alabama Prison System is why our system is screwed.

Let’s look at on facility with two classes of inmates: Community Work Center (CWC) / Work Release:

Community Work Center – Minimum out Inmates.

These Inmates are allowed to work in society. They wear white state issued clothes and they work City Sanitations, Police Departments, Senior Centers, Colleges, Parks and Recreation and the Road Crews. The State (DOC) is given $1500 per day per inmate and the inmate is given $200 per day.

These inmates are those convicted of many crimes to include manslaughter. Some can go to work release and some can’t.

Work Release – Minimum Community

These Inmates are allowed to work in society on private jobs and wear their own clothes. They can take passes home. These Inmates are convicted of many crimes to include: Assault, Robbery First with a weapon or injury.

The State gets most of their money.

On December 12, 2012, I ended a (25) year sentence for Theft of Property and began on Life for Robbery Third. It took me nearly 23 years to make it to a community work center in May, 2010.

For over two years, I’ve worked in the kitchen as the Baker and Store Room Clerk. After arriving at my present facility I’ve worked for the sanitation and parks and recreation and I never had a problem on my job.

However, because I am classified as a violent offender and because ADOC says I have (3) or more convictions involving either the threat of a weapon or injury resulting from the use of a weapon:

I am barred from Work Release.

Nowhere in the Language of Robbery 3rd does it states threat of a weapon, but because of the original charge of Robbery 1st DOC says it’s violent. I was not convicted for a crime in the court but I am serving time for what I wasn’t convicted for.

The difference between in an Inmate in Work Release and myself is the dress code, I wear white and he wears street clothes. He works and gets paid by the hour; I get $30 to $40 added to my account each month to be spent back to DOC and he gets passes home, I don’t.

I have served nearly 30 years in prison and I am not alone. Whenever I go up for parole they insure that a protestor is present, when is Enough! Is Enough! This a deep rooted problem and it’s time for a change.

More to come!

By: Ismail Shabazz