Join us as we review the dynamics of slavery, past to present, and discuss 21st century abolition efforts to address the 13TH amendment.
#FreeThe13th is part of a national effort of activists and organizers from behind the confines of prison walls, to the community, committed to ending slavery and prison profiteering. Over the course of 4 days, speakers will examine the dynamics of slavery, review the implementation of processes to keep slavery active, and discuss next steps required to truly abolish slavery in America.
Get registered for the #FREE THE 13th Event as the conversation about the 13th Amendment and its connection to the continuation of the institution of slavery and the Abolitionist Movement to end slavery in America builds momentum.
On March 24, 1988, six Black children were arrested around 1:00 am, and charged as juvenile deliquents in Gadsden, Ala. for allegedly attempting to break into a department store.
These children were taken to the police station and interrogated for appx. 4 hours by a group of appx. 4 to 6 white police officers. At no point during this interrogation were their parents contacted. There were no attorneys present. When interrogation ended several hours later, the Gadsden 6 were charged with over 30 felony charges for burglary and theft.
A few hours later that same morning of March 24, 1988, the GADSDEN 6 were taken to an initial appearance hearing that suddenly turned into a detention hearing. The GADSDEN 6 was still without parent or attorneys.
At the detention hearing, the GADSDEN 6 were surrounded by appx. 6 white police officers, two white juvenile officers, and a white prosecutor. The record shows that probable cause was stipultaed to on all 30 charges.
Probable cause means that there is reasonable to believe that a crime has been committed and that the defendant committed it. This fact was stipultaed to on all 30 charges.
But STIPULTAED to by who??
The GADSDEN 6 were all children. None of them had attorneys and none of their parents were present. There were only 6 Black children and appx 10 white men present. Who stipulated for the GADSDEN 6 to 30 felony charges on the same day of their arrest ? Children cannot stipulate to anything without counsel and / or their parents present.
The record shows that an attorney was not appointed up April 6, 1988, two weeks AFTERthe stipulation was entered.
These cases were subsequently transferred to adult court without a hearing, where the GADSDEN 6 were convicted of adikt charges At least 3 GADSDEN 6 members suffered 4 or more convictions each, rendering all of them eligible for treatment as a habitual offender and subject to a sentence of life or life without parole if they ever charged with another felony offense.
All of the convictions imposed against the GADSDEN 6 are illegal because they were not represented by counsel or parents at all critical.
CLEARING UP CONFUSION AND MISUNDERSTANDING ABOUT THE SENTENCING COMMISSION AND WHAT IS NOT ABOUT TO HAPPEN ON OCTOBER 1, 2020.
Dear Black Man,
Please know that if you haven’t done anything exceptional or monumental like a shutdowns, i. e., a work strike, boycott and significant protest, then you are not getting freedom.
The posts about the sentencing commission makes two points very clear that we can’t just overlook or ignore:
1) Thr standards only go into effect if approved during the 2020 Legislative Session.
They were NOT approved !!!
This is why Free Alabama Movement starting protesting at the Parole Bureau on June 23, 24 and 25. Parole remained the only path to freedom for many, but Charlie Graddick had virtually stopped all paroles.
2) Just this week, Free Alabama Movement posted again that the sentencing standards must be made retroactive in order to help those who have already been in the system. The information circulating around social media clearly states that the law will apply only to offender “on or after” the effective date.
In other words, if you are already in prison, this law doesn’t apply to you.
Why do y’all think FAM is calling for another Protest on September 29?
Answer: Paroles continue to be denied at historic rates.
Until we do something to make them a) approve the standards and b) make them retroactive, this stuff won’t help ANYONE already incarcerated.
In the song the words go “don’t save her, she don’t wanna be saved.” Family, we are not going to be saved. As the Nation of Gods and Earths say, we gotta Self Save.
WE GOTTA SHUT DOWN !!! Okay ! Keep thinking that the system that is oppressing you is going to save you. Why do y’all think the DOJ is publicly expressing that they are not satisfied with Alabama’s response? Ain’t nobody going anywhere. Just keep thinking you don’t have to support these protests and calls for a shutdown. You will see. . .
In the midst of the George Floyd protests for racial and social justice and a call for the end of police summary executions and murders of innocence, unarmed Black men and women with impunity, many people around the world were shocked when a Democratic prosecutor in Utah charged Black Lives Matter protestors under gang enhancement charges that carried a possible life sentence in prison for merely splashing paint across the steps and part of the street in front of the DA’s with red paint.
While these excessive ‘gang’ charges drew condemnation far and wide, this incident exposed a practice that many Black men know all too well, especially here in Alabama. But, unlike the prosecutor in Utah, who acknowledged that he doubts that anyone will spend even a day in jail for these charges that carry a life sentence, Black men in Alabama have not been so lucky.
In fact, hundreds of Black men in Alabama have been charged with gang-related capital murder offenses that carry the death penalty or life without parole. Although no one has ever received the death penalty under these statutes, hundreds are çurrently serving life without parole sentences after being prosecuted under these gang laws even though none of them were ever charged with actually being in any gang. Many others were originally overcharged with capital offense but ultimately had their charges reduced in plea deals.
HISTORYOF ALABAMA’S GANG LAWS
In 1992, the Alabama Legislature convened to address what was the considered to be a public outcry against gang violence. Among the issues of concern were “drive-by” shooting, where vehicles were being weaponized to carry out gang murders. These gang killings were also taking the lives of innocent children who were outside playing in their yards, or sitting inside their homes when these drive-by shootings were being carried out. In response, the Alabama Legislature added four new capital murder crimes to the Alabama criminal code that were now punishable by death or LWOP:
Over time and after years of these laws being on the books, we have learned that these laws have not been applied as intended. We’ve also learned that the uneven and disparate application of these laws have been applied almost exclusively to young Black men. The facts are undeniable. Alabama prosecutors are intentionally and systematically using gang laws to overcharge, wrongfully convict, and over sentence young Black men for capital murder where the only aggravating factor used to enhance their charges is the fact that they are Black. Excepting a few isolated instances, white people who commit the exact same crimes are not charges with capital murder.
SHIRLEY HENSON: Road Rage and Black Rage
Every fire has a spark.
The case that sparked the fire leading to the discovery of the racial discrimination in how these laws were being used was the road rage case involving a middle-class white woman named Shirley Henson. Ms. Henson was driving down an Alabama interstate when she got into an altercation with another driver over tailgating. When the driver of the other vehicle got out of her car to confront Ms. Henson, Ms. Henson retrieved her gun and shot through her window striking the woman in the face, killing her.
As shown above, under Alabama law, when a person inside a vehicle fires a weapon outside that vehicle and kills someone this is capital murder:
(18) Murder committed by or through the use of a deadly weapon fired or otherwise used within or from a vehicle.
Indeed, firing a weapon from inside a vehicle and killing someone outside that vehicle is exactly how a drive-by shooting is committed. But, Ms. Henson was not charged with a capital offense. Instead, she was charged with reckless murder.
This lesser charge was a revelation to Black men in Alabama because they, unlike Ms. Henson, were told that there crimes were capital based on the factual predicate that a weapon was fired from inside a vehicle that killed someone outside the vehicle or vice versa. This was a fact that, according to their prosecutors and defense attorneys, automatically rendered their cases capital.
Yet, here it was playing out on news stations all around the State that when a white women committed the exact same crime, with the exact same facts, she was not charged with a capital offense. Ultimately, Ms. Henson was famously convicted of road rage and spent appx. 10 years in prison before being released.
Young Black men, however, were receiving life without parole sentences, left to die in the Alabama prison system for the exact same offense.
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION 575
While Shirley Henson, a middle classes white woman received the benefit of white privilege in the Alabama judicial system, Phillip Fondren, a young white male did not. Phillip Fondren was charged with capital murder after killing a man (Fondren claimed self-defense) in a domestic situation after an argument with his wife’s ex-boyfriend. A single gunshot was fired from Fondren’s vehicle:
After his conviction, Phillip’s mother, understanding the injustice done to her son, became a vocal activist, refusing to accept as fact that her son would spend the rest of his life in prison simply because he was charged under a statute that defined the crime and length of punishment based solely on the location of the parties when the crime occured. In order words, if Phillip had stepped outside of his truck and he and the victim were both standing in the driveway when the same fatal shot was fired, he would not have been subject to a capital offense or life without parole.
Phillip’s case and many others highlight the fact that gang affiliation and using the vehicle as an instrument of the crime (drive-by) are the elements that the Alabama Legislature intended to punish. These were the aggravating factors that enhanced the punishment. When those aggravating elements are absent, then what prosecutors are supposed to be punishing is a murder case.
Avoiding absurd results like this is the very reason why gang relation was a critical aspect of the original legislation. If there was no gang involvement or the vehicle was not being used to carry out the crime then there was no aggravating facts that would justify enhancing the charge to capital murder instead of regular murder.
This injustice compelled Ms. Fondren to start writing articles, reaching out to legislatures and taking other proactive actions, all of which ultimately lead to her understanding that her son had been charged under a gang-related statute even though his crime was not gang-related and he was not in a gang.
Her efforts lead the Alabama Legislature to passed a House Joint Resolution 575, which was signed by the Governor, all stating that the gang statute was being misapplied in Alabama inconsistent with their intent in passing the law in the first place.
PHYRRIC VICTORY AFTER THE JUDICIAL BRANCH GETS INVOLVED
The success of Ms. Fondren’s campaign was short-lived. After receiving the Resolution, the next step was to file a writ bringing Phillip’s case back to his court of conviction for sentencing relief. The court, however, refused to grant relief, contending that the Resolution did not have the effect of law. As such, all relief was denied.
Challenges to the Resolution went all the way to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Judicial Circuit, all to no avail. The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari review and any hope for obtaining relief based on the House Joint Resolution were dashed.
According to the judiciary the problem resided in the fact that the Alabama Legislature omitted certain language from the Bill that was voted on after it was enacted into Law, and the House Joint Resolution cannot be used as an amendment to supply that language.
See, the original Bill submitted to committee and voted on by both houses states specifically that the Bill was intended to punish gang-related drive-by activity. This language is also in the minutes of the debates and conversation about the Bill. But once the Bill was enacted into law, the “gang-related” language, somehow and for whatever reason was excluded. As a result of this snafu, hundreds of people have been wrongfully convicted and no one has been able to obtain relief. This is a travesty of justice.
OTHER CASES INVOLVING WHITE DEFENDANTS TREATED DIFFERENTLY AND MORE FAVORABLE THAN THOSE INVOLVING YOUNG BLACK MEN
Over the years, countless other instances of cases have surfaced involving facts where the defendants were treated differently based on the color of skin. In one the more egregious instances of white privilege, a white man named Steven Bedgood in Georgetown, Alabama, arrived home and noticed a truck leaving the direction of his residence. Upon realization that the truck was being driven by a burglar leaving his home, Mr. Bedgood retrieved a high-powered rifle and shot over 1/8 a mile down the road, striking the assumed burglar in the head, killing him instantly.
Under Alabama’s gang statute, this killing of another person inside a vehicle by shots fired from outside the vehicle is capital murder :
(17) Murder committed by or through the use of a deadly weapon while the victim is in a vehicle.
Unlike hundreds of young Black men before him, however, Mr. Bedgood was charged with manslaughter, a class C felony. Ultimately, Mr. Bedgood was convicted of the lesser included offense of criminally negligent homicide, a misdemeanor, and received 6 months suspended sentence, while each of the Black men mentioned above received life or life without parole. Absent intervention or change in the law, each of them will die in prison, while Mr. Bedgood never served a day in prison.
Oeatha Archie III, Brandon Johnson, Antwaun Phillips, and Jeremy Cattage are just a few of the young Black men who were charged with capital murder pursuant subsection (17), a circumstance where the victim was killed inside a vehicle by a gushot fired from outside that vehicle. Well-known activist and civil rights leader Pastor Kenneth Sharpron Glasgow and his codefendant are two Black men who are currently facing capital murder charges under this racially discriminatory law for a non-gang related offense where the vehicle was not used as a weapon to carry out the crime.
These Black men were all charged with capital murder and sentenced to Life or Life Without Parole even though they were not accused of being gang members or of committing a gang-related killing. The enhancement element in each of their cases was the the fact that they are Black.
Systemic racism and abuse at the hands of law enforcement takes on many forms, resulting in death by different means. While George Floyd met his death in the street, those who protested his death were charged under gang statutes that carry death-inducing life sentences. Prosecutors who routinely overcharge Black defendants are no less guilty that the officers who murdered George Floyd. The manner of death does not remove the certainty of it.
In Alabama, Black men are sentenced to death by incarceration for committing acts that when committed by white people sometimes doesn’t even result in a single day spent in jail. This need to change. The House Joint Resolution makes clear that their intent was to punish ONLY gang-related drive-by killings and/or those killings that uses a vehicle as an instrument of the crime, as a capital offense. Being Black is not a symbol for gang involvement, and being Black should no longer be countenanced as being an element of a crime. Prosecutors should not be allowed to punish Blackness; those who are currently charged or have already been wrongfully convicted as such deserve justice now.