Justice for The Gadsden 6
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. . .”
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 !!!
- All proceedings and convictions be declared null and void and removed from their records.
- All records in juvenile and adult court be expunged.
- 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.
July 29, 2019 court hearing in Montgomery, AL
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
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
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.
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.”
Wake Up Alabama
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