I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Saturday, December 19, 2009

When the victim is the criminal, and the perpetrator is the state.

It took the US government 28 years to get around to this man's innocence claim. He'd be just another criminal dying in prison if there had been no DNA evidence to test - we'd never give him a second thought otherwise. He'd have been executed by now if he was given the death penalty. Looks like the guy who did the most to put him away may have put a few more innocent people behind bars, too. Once you're there, you might as well be dead to the rest of the world, guilty or not.

Only a few prosecutors in the country have really taken innocence claims seriously enough to promptly investigate - although, if you think about it, it's an emergency situation when someone is abducted and held under threat of death against their will for even minutes with a toy gun, much less for years with real weapons and the authority to use them.  Survivors of violent crime should be especially concerned about the men and women alike being sexually victimized in prison, regardless of their guilt or innocence or reason for being there, because as long as it's okay to torment the least powerful or loved in our society - generally prisoners and psychiatric patients - then we are all corrupted by the violence we so wish to eliminate from our lives. The innocent in prison (and their families) are often more devastatingly victimized and traumatized, for longer, than the victims of kidnappings out here - and yet victims' rights advocates are so quick to try to diminish the rights of prisoners to appeal their convictions as well as their treatment in prison...and are thus exploited for political gain.

And all we had to offer this guy for what we put him through was $75.


DNA test frees Washington man convicted in 1981 murder

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 15, 2009; 1:43 PM

A Washington man who has spent nearly 28 years in prison for raping and murdering a Georgetown University student in Rock Creek Park was ordered released Tuesday morning by a D.C. Superior Court judge after DNA evidence revealed that another man committed the crime.

Donald Eugene Gates, now 58, had maintained his innocence from the start. He was to board a bus from a prison in Arizona on Tuesday afternoon and head to a new home -- and a new life -- in Ohio. While the judge's ruling frees Gates, it does not exonerate him. There will be a separate hearing to make that determination.

Senior Judge Fred B. Ugast angrily criticized government officials who relied heavily on the testimony of an FBI analyst during Gates's trial. The analyst incorrectly linked Gates to two hairs from an African American male, found on the body of white college student Catherine Schilling, who was slain in 1981.

That FBI analyst, Michael P. Malone, was discredited in a 1997 review by the Justice Department along with 13 other analysts for making false reports and inaccurate tests.

Gates has maintained his innocence, even from the Tucson prison where he had been housed. Last year, the District's Public Defender Services filed a motion to have further DNA testing done on Schillings's remains. Those and subsequent tests showed that Gates didn't commit the crime and also discovered another man's DNA, attorneys said in court.

It was unclear Tuesday whether authorities know whose DNA they have, but no new arrests have been made. To make a link to a specific person's DNA, officials would have to submit the genetic material to national databases and get a match. Only convicted criminals are in the databases.

"This is outrageous," Ugast said from the bench. He ordered a review of all convictions in the District in which Malone testified. "We are trying to right a wrong," he said.

Prosecutors said they relied on more than the hair testimony in asking a jury to convict Gates. One of Gates's cellmates, a paid government informant, testified that Gates confessed to him about the rape and murder.

Another witness testified that Gates had tried to rob her days before, and in the same location, as Schilling was killed.

Ugast, a former chief judge now on senior status, oversaw the original Gates trial in 1982, and in 1988 ordered a DNA test. But at that time, DNA testing was less reliable than now.

At Tuesday's hearing, Ugast asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Joan Draper why it took so long for her office to look into the case. "We began looking into it as soon as it was brought to our attention," Draper said.

Draper said the government plans to provide Gates with winter clothes, $75 and a bus ticket to Ohio, where he has family.

Gates's attorney, Sandra K. Levick, asked for more help. "Mr. Gates is a victim here. We ask the U.S. to use more resources beyond this pittance so Mr. Gates can get on with his life," she said.

Another hearing was scheduled for Dec. 23, at which prosecutors will review all the DNA testing to determine whether Gates should be exonerated for the crimes and not have to register as a sex offender.
"Mr. Gates has been fighting to prove that he is innocent of this crime," Levick said. "On behalf of my client, we are thankful he is now being released," Levick said.

One of Gates's friends, Ricardo Nesbitt, who attended the hearing, said he never believed his friend could have raped and killed someone. "I knew he wasn't the one," said Nesbitt, who used to play basketball with Gates on the public courts on Seventh Street NW and worked with him unloading trucks.

"Gates just wouldn't do anything like that. He deserves more than $75."

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