Court victory for San Francisco 8

FRFI 210 August / September 2009

The San Francisco 8 are Black Panthers accused of the 1971 murder of a San Francisco police officer, one week after the murder of George Jackson in San Quentin Prison. Charges against the men were originally thrown out in 1975 when a judge ruled that their incriminating statements had been made under torture. In 2007, the eight were arrested, held in shackles and bail set at millions of dollars.

In July Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim were sentenced to probation and time served, after Herman agreed to plead to voluntary manslaughter and Jalil to conspiracy to voluntary manslaughter. All charges were then dropped on Richard Brown, Hank Jones, Harold Taylor, and Ray Boudreaux, with the prosecution admitting it had ‘insufficient evidence’ against them. Charges had already been dropped against Richard O'Neal last year. This leaves Francisco Torres as the last remaining defendant, who will appear in court on 10 August.

Jalil’s guilty plea was a difficult and heroic decision since, although he is innocent (he was not in San Francisco when the officer was killed), it meant that all charges against four other defendants would be dropped. It was decided that it was just too risky to take a chance with the racist US justice system.

The campaign has been not simply in defence of the SF8 but has used the case to call for anti-torture legislation, an investigation of the government COINTELPRO surveillance operation in the 1970s and a truth and reconciliation commission. In its 18-month fight, the campaign has drawn in and educated young activists about the nature of state repression and how to struggle against it.

The final push is now on to get charges dropped against Francisco Torres.

Victory to the San Francisco 8!
Steve Palmer


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