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

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Prosecuting innocence and opposition.

No one in this country is immune to prosecutorial harassment...if we don't let them take out the people they want, they'll come straight for us instead. And these are innocent people they've helped free. It's the innocent ones that scare the prison industrial complex the most - once they've been convicted, the rest of the system becomes complicit in burying their claims, and silencing their pleas, lest the public discover that our system of justice is deeply flawed. 

We are far more concerned with punishing the guilty than protecting the innocent, which is why we haven't designed a justice system which actually reduces violent crime by transforming institutions and relationships of power in communities, not imprisoning drug addicts and gamblers and throwing their children in a setting where they're as likely to be victimized as their parents are.

The Professor and the Prosecutor: Anita Alvarez’s office turns up the heat on David Protess’s Medill Innocence Project.

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office provides at least two reporters a memo containing scurrilous and unsubstantiated claims about the conduct of the Northwestern University journalism professor and his students in an earlier case.

In their own ways, they have risen to stardom on a stage built from misery, two battlers who grapple with questions of life-and-death justice: Anita Alvarez, a Chicago native and career prosecutor with working-class roots, who dramatically emerged from a pack of formidable opponents to become the first woman and first person of Hispanic descent to hold the top job in the second-largest prosecutor’s office in the nation; and the Northwestern University professor David Protess, a crusader against wrongful convictions who has guided his students to find fresh evidence that helped free five people from death row and sprang six others from imprisonment for murders they did not commit—putting prosecutors on the defensive with each notch in his belt.

Over the more than two decades they built their careers, the two rarely crossed paths. That changed when Alvarez, who took office a little over a year ago, found herself dealing with the latest Protess cause: the claim that a man named Anthony McKinney had been wrongly jailed for more than 30 years.

In this case, Alvarez turned the tables on Protess, challenging the motives and ethics of him and his students. In a court filing, her office has given voice to deeply unflattering, sometimes personal accusations: that some students may have paid a witness to recant; that other students “flirted” with witnesses, in effect, to persuade them to make incriminating statements; and that students may have been so driven to get an A that they twisted or suppressed evidence to suit their cause of freeing McKinney.

Alvarez insists that she is simply doing what a prosecutor should do—make every reasonable effort to ascertain the truth behind possible evidence and testimony in a criminal case. “I have a duty to seek out whatever evidence is out there, and that’s what I’m doing,” she told me.

Her approach, however, has set off a national controversy and ignited counteraccusations that her real interest is to intimidate, bully, and perhaps destroy Protess’s operation. Alvarez dismisses those allegations as “insulting.”

Meanwhile, outside court, her office has given at least two reporters a memo about a 1996 case as “background” information. The memo recounts scurrilous and unsubstantiated claims about the conduct of Protess and students who were working on an investigation that resulted in freeing two men from death row and two others from life sentences. “What on earth does [an old] memo based on lies and designed to smear my students have to do with the truth of whether Anthony McKinney was wrongfully convicted?” asks Protess.

Now, a case that was about whether a convicted man is innocent has morphed into an increasingly personal brawl between two heavyweights unwilling to back down—with academics, prosecutors, freedom of the press advocates, and students hanging on the judge’s decision...

(finish article at Chicago Magazine)

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