Saturday, June 19, 2010

Will U.S. Dept. of Justice Intercede? Curtis Flowers Found Guilty of 4 Murders in Mississippi

Alan Bean, Friends of Justice reports that Curtis Flowers has been found guilty of all four counts of murder. Dr. Bean, a forensic historian, has been covering the trial. Here is part of his most recent report with a link to his blog. Remember that Dr. Bean's organization can always use donations to help fund his work. (Susan)

Curtis Flowers has been found guilty on all four capital murder counts. No surprise there, but I wasn’t prepared for a twenty-seven minute jury (non)deliberation. That’s right, twenty-seven minutes. Hardly long enough to pick a jury foreman.

The courtroom quickly filled up with the kind of folks who have been leaving derogatory comments on our blog. One older man rushed up the courthouse steps as I was emailing supporters. “I guess I’m late,” I heard him say, “but maybe not.”

“They’re just starting the sentencing phase,” another man replied.

“That’s the part I’m looking for,” the first man exulted.

He will have to wait until tomorrow morning. The defense put on an elaborate and lengthy mitigation case highlighted by the testimony of corrections expert James Aiken. He testified that he had to sit down with Curtis Flowers for two face-to-face meetings because he couldn’t believe that a man locked up for almost fourteen years doesn’t have a single disciplinary write-up. Aiken testified that manipulative inmates can put up a good front for a short time, but anyone who holds up for over a decade is an exceptional inmate.

The disconnect was almost surreal. There is a very good reason why Curtis Flowers has a discipline record bordering on the miraculous–he is 100% innocent. He simply doesn’t fit the killer profile. His detractors have done a good job of demonizing Mr. Flowers over the years, but anyone who has sat down with the man (as I did for forty-five minutes Wednesday night) can’t help but be impressed with his gentle faith and quiet confidence.

The sentencing hearing got under way with several representatives of the victims families testifying. The room was in tears as Roxanne Ballard explained that her children were too young in 1996 to know the woman she used to be. One of Carmen Rigby’s sons talked about the horror of losing a mother on the verge of college. The grief in the room was palpable.

Link --

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 9 of the Curtis Flowers Murder Trial; Defense Begins Its Case

Dr. Alan Bean, a forensic historian, is covering the trial of Curtis Flowers in Winona, Mississippi. Flowers, an African American, is on trial for the sixth time on the same murder charges -- setting a judicial record. The following comes from Bean, this morning:

On Tuesday morning, the Winona perjury parade ground to a halt. Bonita Henry is one of several witnesses in this legal marathon who are [no]longer capable of testifying. She appeared courtesy of a brief excerpt from the 2004 trial transcript.

Tardy Furniture store in Winona, Mississippi

Ms. Henry said she was sitting on her porch between 9:00 and 9:30 on the morning of the murders when she saw Curtis Flowers walk by. He was wearing white shorts and a T-shirt.

I was hoping the defense attorney in the transcript would ask if Curtis had a .380 automatic stuck inside the elastic waist band of his shorts–but the question never came.

Curiously, neither the state nor the defense asked if the witness remembered seeing Mary Jeanette Fleming heading west while Curtis was walking east. A couple of days ago, Ms. Fleming testified that Curtis passed her just a few seconds after he passed Ms. Henry, only this time he was wearing a pair of black dress pants, a dress shirt and a jacket.

Continue here -- (and please consider contributing to Friends of Justice to help pay Dr. Bean's expenses. Because of his work, several major media organizations have written about this travisty).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 8, Curtis Flowers Mississippi Murder Trial; Smoke and Fog...

Dr. Alan Bean, forensic historian, is covering this historical murder trial in Winona, Mississippi. Here is his report on Day Eight:

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” The prosecution of Curtis Flowers rests on this bit of folk wisdom. Curtis told investigators he never strayed onto the east side of Highway 51 on the morning in 1996 when four innocent people were murdered execution-style at the Tardy furniture store. One witness seeing Curtis Flowers on the east side of the highway might be mistaken, but the state has half- a-dozen witnesses making this claim.

With that much smoke there must be a fire some place. Right?

Or are we all being duped by an elaborate fog machine?

Strip the eye-witness testimony from this case and nothing remains but junk science.

There’s the bloody footprint. The Mississippi Crime Lab has shown that the print was made by a size 10-11 Grant Hill Fila running shoe. An empty shoe box for a pair of 10.5 Grant Hill Filas was found in a chest of drawers owned by Connie Moore, Curtis Flowers’ live-in girlfriend.

Connie Moore says the shoe box is from a pair of Filas she purchased for her son Marcus. Marcus confirms this testimony.

Smoke or fog?

The problem pile grows. The pool of blood grew gradually in the half hour between the murders and the arrival of Sam Jones (the first man to witness the crime scene). Moments after the killing there would have been little blood to step in.

Sam Jones has testified that the print wasn’t there when he arrived at the Tardy furniture store.

An older white witness named Porky Collins claims to have seen two black men walking toward Tardys at around 10:00, a moment or two after Sam Jones ran off to report the crime.

Grant Hill Filas were a marketing sensation in the summer of 1996, with over 600,000 pair in the size 10-11 range purchased nationally. Every young man in Winona who could make the $100 price tag owned a pair.

Smoke or fog?

Then we have the single particle of gunshot residue found on the web of the defendant’s right hand. Doug Evans has a little mantra: particles of lead, barium and antimony (with a unique spherical morphology) can only be produced by the discharge of a firearm.

Does this mean Curtis Flowers fired a gun on the morning of July 16, 1996? The jury may be thinking along these lines, but claims from expert witnesses are more modest. A single particle of residue (and an unusually tiny particle at that) can easily be picked up by casual contact, especially if you are in a highly contaminated environment. Curtis Flowers was picked up by two officers, taken to the police station in a police car, and was questioned at the police station. Studies have shown that gunshot residue is ubiquitous in all these environments.

Smoke of fog?

The residue evidence in the Flowers case is meaningless. Judge Joey Loper was asked to restrict testimony on the residue issue but ruled for the state (his standard practice).

A crime this horrific inspires sympathy for the victims and a deep craving for justice, but junk science alone falls short of a conviction.

Enter the witnesses.

For the past few days we have witnessed a parade of sad, compromised black people testifying that, fourteen years ago, they saw Curtis Flowers walking in the direction of the Angelica garment factory, hanging around the Angelica parking lot, returning home, heading downtown, walking in the direction of the furniture store, arguing with an unidentified stranger on the Boulevard in front of Tardys, and running from the scene of the crime.

Smoke or fog?

One or two of these people may come off as a bit addled, but you still have six or seven fingers pointing at Mr. Flowers.

In fact, so many people claim to have seen the defendant doing so many things, at so many times, and in so many places that even the prosecutor and defense counsel have a hard time keeping all the details straight.

Who are these people, and why do they keep repeating the same tortured testimony year-after-year?

There’s Patricia Hollman, the woman who saw Curtis Flowers heading north to get to a southern destination. Elaine Ghoulston, the sharp-eyed neighbor who detected a pair of Grant Hill Fila running shoes at a distance 200 feet (I paced it off yesterday morning).


There’s Katherine Snow who first said she saw a five-foot-six stranger with a cap leaning against a car in the Angelica parking lot and then, a month later, remembered that she had really seen a five-foot-ten, hatless, Curtis Flowers.

There’s Jeanette Fleming who waited seven months to report meeting a flirtatious Curtis Flowers (“Hi, good-looking!”). Fleming was working at McDonald’s when officers spirited her off to the police station for a little tete-a-tete. She has no idea how they got her name.

There’s Charles “Porky” Collins, the man who, in a single eventful morning witnessed (a) Carmen Rigby entering Tardy Furniture for the last time, (b) Curtis Flowers arguing with an unnamed buddy in front of the store, and (c) Doyle Simpson reporting his gun stolen. In the midst of all this activity, Collins made three failed attempts to visit a dry cleaning establishment.

There’s Odell Hallomon who claims an extreme addiction to cigarettes drove him to accuse his loving sister of perjury. In the second trial, Hallomon testified that he and Patricia Hallomon cooked up a story about Curtis Flowers to get their hands on the $30,000 reward. In a letter to Curtis’ mother, Odell said he knew his family would reject him for telling the truth, but he was determined to do the right thing.

“When I got out of prison, my momma was on me everyday,” Odell explained today. After a few weeks of constant harassment from his mother and sister, he got on the phone and told Doug Evans he was going to change his story.

Mr. Evans has done his best to harmonize this flurry of testimony, but serious problems remain. Jeanette Fleming saw Curtis a block from Tardys at 9:00 am and Clemmie Fleming saw him running away from the furniture store 60 minutes later. Would a murder spend a full hour at the crime scene? What did he do, and where did he go between 9:40 (when the bodies were first discovered) and 10:00 when Clemmie saw him leaving the scene?

While Clemmie saw Curtis fleeing the scene, Porky Collins saw him engaged in a vigorous argument on the boulevard.

Police initially had two suspects: Doyle Simpson and Curtis Flowers. Shortly after Porky reported his strange tale to the police, Doyle had been eliminated as a suspect. This made the second man (and his two-tone, dusty, brown Pontiac) superfluous, but the report could not be altered. Doug Evans copes by pretending that Porky never mentioned a second man.

If Curtis had access to a vehicle, why did he leave on foot?

And why is there no overlap in the way the various witnesses describe the defendant’s physical appearance? They have him wearing shorts, “windpants”, dress pants (of various colors), T-shirts (in a rainbow of colors and several designs), a hat, a shaved head, short hair, and, remarkably, a jacket–this on a scorching Mississippi summer’s day.

The problems with the eyewitness testimony are too numerous for a single post, but you get the idea.

Is the state’s case generating smoke or is that a fog of confusion settling over the courtroom.

And why would any self-respecting prosecutor allow himself to be associated with witnesses this unconvincing? Doug Evans created these witnesses. They are his puppets. They twirl and sing at his command. Sure, you can win convictions by sponsoring perjury, but have you no pride man? Is this the legacy you had in mind when you left law school?

Why did all these people, over a period of nine months, agree to sign Curtis Flowers’ death warrant? Was it greed, fear, a desire to be left alone, or a combination of all these factors?

At the end of Clemmie Fleming’s testimony on Monday, defense attorney Ray Carter asked her why it took nine long months for her to turn on Curtis Flowers.

“They told me there was a baby in it?” the dead-pan witness responded.

“A baby?” Carter said.

Clemmie explained that the 16 year-old Bobo Stewart, one of the victims, was just like a baby in her eyes (she was 21 at the time). Outraged by this new information, she broke her silence.

Carter asked one final question. “You don’t believe that Curtis Flowers killed those people at Tardys, do you Clemmie?”

“No, sir,” she replied softly.

So let’s get this straight. Outraged by the death of an innocent adolescent, Clemmie decided to implicate an innocent man.

Ponder that, dear reader, and you’ll know why Friends of Justice is in Winona.

The tension at the courthouse deepens by the day. One observer described a brief encounter with an indignant woman. “Are you with the Friends of Justice?” she asked.

“No,” he replied, “I’m from Greenwood.”

The woman softened instantly. “Oh, then I’m sorry for glaring at you,” she said.

By now, everybody on the white side of the room knows who I am and they’re all glaring (yes, I notice). I was standing outside the courthouse, fumbling with my Blackberry, when I glimpsed a middle-aged gentleman glanced in my direction.

“By the way,” he said, “I find you disgusting.”

“Thank you, sir,” I replied in the calmest voice I could muster.

“You’re welcome,” he snarled.

Friends of Justice

Friday, June 11, 2010

Gray-Haired Witnesses Update: Washington D.C. Event, June 21; Scott Sisters of Mississippi Top Item

Subject: SOLIDARITY/PARKING +MORE FOR 6/21 GRAY-HAIRED WITNESSES FAST FOR JUSTICE!
SUPPORT THE GRAY-HAIRED WITNESSES FAST FOR JUSTICE!
JUNE 21, 2010 -- WASHINGTON, DC
10 AM - DEPT. OF JUSTICE
12 NOON - WHITE HOUSE PRESS CONFERENCE
1PM-9PM - LAFAYETTE SQUARE PARK


We need your support in bringing national attention to the case of the Scott Sisters and all other women who have been incarcerated wrongly and egregiously over-sentenced, punishing and destroying our families and children, please plan to participate!
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PARKING FOR CARS/BUSES:

Thanks so much to Julie Turner for all of her help in organizing support in solidarity with the Gray-Haired Witnesses!

The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church has confirmed the Radcliffe Room for press conference/rally attendees on Monday, June 21, 2010 to rest, use the bathroom and get situated. The times we may use the room are from 8:30a until 9:45 and 11:45a until 1:00. The Church will close at 3 on Monday, but this will give everyone enough time to sort things out. The church is at 1313 New York Ave, NW—2 blocks from the White House and Lafayette Square Park.

Directions to Dept. of Justice from the New York Ave. Presbyterian Church: Come out of the building at 1313 New York Avenue, NW and turn left, cross the street at corner of the church,---you will be in front of the Inter American Bank—which is now H St, NW. Stay on H, cross at 13th, and count the numbers down to 9th—turn right on 9th, now count down the letters until you reach Pennsylvania Ave., NW –the address is 950 Pennsylvania. It’s about 10 city blocks.

There is a public parking lot located 4 blocks from the church and 4 blocks from the Department of Justice. It’s the best deal in town—most other parking is in garages that will not fit a bus. This is the contact information: City Center Parking operated by U Street Parking - 900 9th St., NW—the entrance is on 9th St, which is one way. Cars can park all day for $20 and buses can park all day for $35. Come down H St, NW to 10th, turn right on 10th go up 1 block, turn right, and then right again on 9th—the entrance is mid block on the right. Buses park to the far right of the lot. The telephone number is 202 265-0010.
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IN SOLIDARITY:

The California Coalition for Women Prisoners expresses our strong solidarity with the courageous fast by the Gray-Haired Witnesses for Justice to demand freedom for the Scott Sisters and an inspection of the prison where Jamie Scott is being held. In California, we witness similar inhuman conditions for women in prison on a daily basis, and we condemn the systemic racism and sexism which has caused the population of women in prison to triple in the past twenty-five years. Jamie and Gladys are serving outrageous life sentences which in Jamie’s case could well turn into a death sentence if the criminal health care conditions she is enduring aren’t quickly improved. We deeply appreciate your determination to stand up and expose the grave injustice being perpetrated against the Scott sisters and the tens of thousands of other sisters who are wrongly incarcerated across the United States. -- Diana Block, Founding Member
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Legal Services for Prisoners with Children endorses the June 21, 2010 Gray-Haired Witnesses Fast for Justice in DC and your mission to free the Scott sisters. LSPC is a non-profit organization based in San Francisco, California, with a 32 year history of advocating for the rights of prisoners, formerly incarcerated persons, and their families. We know that the unique situation of incarcerated women is often overlooked. Prison medical care is notoriously inadequate. Sentences are too long. Justice is often not served in our criminal courts. We support your efforts to free the Scott sisters and call on the Obama administration to help justice be served here. -- Carol Strickman, Staff Attorney
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Thank you Bro. Rudolph Lewis of ChickenBones for sharing this critical information on your illustrious pages: http://www.facebook.com/l/718f7;www.nathanielturner.com/freescottsisters.htm

Thank you also to Rev. Kenneth Glasgow and T.O.P.S. (THE ORDINARY PEOPLE SOCIETY) for writing and sending out a press release in support of this effort. Website: www. http://www.facebook.com/l/718f7;www.wearetops.org

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ENDORSEMENT LIST IN FORMATION (CLOSES JUNE 15!)

Action Committee for Women in Prison
Agnes Johnson, The 1212 Community in the Bronx
Ahmad Abdulibad, Minister~General, Sons Of Afrika
Bonnie Kerness, AFSC*
Brenda Scott Lowery
Bro. Moorbey, Chairman, Black Unity Movement
Bro. Sauti & Sis. Shiriki, http://www.facebook.com/l/718f7;KCBLR.ORG Radio
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
Charles E. Campbell, Allen Hydro Energy Corporation (AHEC)
Cleo Silvers
David Blanchard
Dick Gregory - Human Rights Activist
Dominique Reed, HRC-Fed Up!
Donna Wallach, Justice for Palestinians
Earl Smith, Executive Director, Order of Kush International
Eddie Griffin (BASG)
Fayemi Shakur, Sundiata Acoli Freedom Campaign
Florence L. Tate
Harambee Radio and Television Network
Helen Raines Staley, Albany NY
Int'l Concerned Family/Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal
Jacqui C. Williams
Julie Ann Turner
Kenneth King
Kermit Eady, Eady Associates
Leonna A. Brandao, S.W.III, New Vision Org., Inc.
Malaika H. Kambon, People's Eye Photography
Mary Ratcliff, Editor, San Francisco Bay View Newspaper
mesha Monge-Irizarry, Director, Education Not Incarceration, SF Chapter,
Idriss Stelley Foundation, + SF MOOC City Commissioner*
Michael Johnson/Black Student Union (Comm. College of Balt. County/Essex)
Michelle Alexander, Author, "The New Jim Crow - Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness"
Mississippi Prison Watch
Monica Moorehead, Women's Fightback Network, NYC
Nancy Lockhart, M.J., Legal Analyst
Nathan Hare, Black Think Tank
Nkechi Taifa, Esq. - President, Legacy Justice Institute
People's Organization for Progress
Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, T.O.P.S.
Rev. Majadi Baruti, Udja Temple Ministries
Sam Jordan - Advocate for Justice and Prison Abolition
Senghor Jawara Baye, President General UNIA-ACL
Sistah Q, Author of Maintaining Our Temples
Sundiata Acoli
Tara Graham
Terry Howcott
The African American Freedom & Reconstruction League
The MOVE Organization
Trinita Simpson
4JusticeNow
(* For ID purposes only)
------------------

WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT, THERE IS SOMETHING THAT EVERYONE
CAN DO, NO ACTION IS TOO SMALL!

You can do this by some or all of the following:
- ATTEND THE JUNE 21ST PRESS CONFERENCE AND RALLY AND BRING OTHERS! We need your physical support!
- Post our press release and flyer to your FB and other social networking sites, forward it to your email colleagues and forward it to local and national print, radio and tv media.
Press release:

http://www.facebook.com/l/718f7;www.scribd.com/doc/31674423/grayhairpr -- Flyer: http://www.facebook.com/l/718f7;www.scribd.com/doc/32238758/New-Flyer

- Write a blog, article or commentary on our mission and call, post it and pass it on for posting on our website.
- Write and publish an article on the case of the Scott Sisters and the issue of Black incarceration. (Case Summary on the Scott Sisters is at http://www.facebook.com/l/718f7;freethescottsisters.blogspot.com/search/label/Case%20Summary)
- Volunteer to help us prepare for the day, particularly if you live in the DC, Balt., VA area, we need you however you are able!
- Please donate yourself on that day with your conscious and respectful entertainment performance!

URGENT NEEDS!!!

-- SOUND SYSTEM WITH GENERATOR AND RISER FOR USAGE AT LAFAYETTE SQUARE PARK FROM 12 NOON UNTIL 8:30 PM!
-- HELP TO SPONSOR THE BUS FROM MISSISSIPPI WHICH IS VERY MUCH NEEDED TO BRING MRS. RASCO, FAMILY AND MS SUPPORTERS TO DC AND IS VERY EXPENSIVE!
Please mail an M.O. for whatever you can spare (no amount is too small!) ASAP made out to Donnie Finley and mail to:
Donnie Finley c/o Gloria's Kitchen, 2855 Bailey Ave., Jackson, MS 39206. If you need more info please phone Donnie at: 601-454-6507. Thank you in advance for your kind support!

CONTACT US TODAY AND GET INVOLVED!

Contact us at ghwitnesses@gmail.com, 1- 866-968-1188, Ext. 2, and please link to/follow us at

http://www.facebook.com/l/718f7;www.grayhairedwitnesses.blogspot.com/ and support!

Come to Jesus Time: Curtis Flowers trial, day four; in Winona, Mississippi, Civil rights History Takes Place

Dr. Alan Bean, a forensic historian, covers the ongoing murder trial of Curtis Flowers of Winona, Mississipi. It's history in the making. Here is Dr. Bean's report from day four (posted on Dr. Bean's Friends of Justice website:

The record-setting sixth trial of Curtis Flowers will be tried by eleven white jurors and one African-American juror.

It could have been worse. At the conclusion of the jury selection process, only ten black jurors remained standing. The state had fifteen peremptory strikes. Had DA Doug Evans so chosen, we could have had an all-white jury.

Doug Evans did not so choose. A jury bereft of black jurors in a county that is 45% black would have looked . . . tacky. When the prosecutor in question has a well-earned reputation for racial bias you need at least one African-American in the judicial mix.

In Flowers 3, Evans had to use all fifteen peremptory strikes on African-Americans to get eleven white jurors. This time, Winona’s black community did Evans’ work for him by stampeding, lemming-like, over a cliff. They claimed they were too convinced of Flowers’ innocence to be fair and impartial. They said they couldn’t consider the death penalty under any circumstances. They couldn’t judge a fellow human being under any circumstances.

Several of the ten black jurors left standing at the end of voir dire were barely rescued by skilful rehabilitation work from defense attorney Ray Carter. “You don’t have to commit to the death penalty,” Carter explained, “you must simply be willing to consider it, to think about it, to weigh it as an option. Do you think you could do that?”

More often than not, black jurors answered in the negative. They simply didn’t want to be on a jury with ten or eleven white-people-on-a-mission.

There was an eloquent sadness in Carter’s eyes as he returned to his chair.

Black jurors have been reluctant to serve in previous trials held in Montgomery County–but nothing like this.

Don’t get me wrong, most black jurors are perfectly sincere in their disavowal of the death penalty. In Flowers 4, the state didn’t ask for capital punishment and five black jurors were seated. All five held out for acquittal.

But something new is in the works in Flowers 6. The brutal treatment of Flowers 5 juror, James Bibbs sent a tidal wave of fear through Winona’s black community. Judge Joey Loper pitched a conniption-fit when Bibbs held out for acquittal.

The judge has a nasty temper. He doesn’t just overrule defense motions; he buries defense counsel under a great heap of pejoratives, as in: “That has to be the most bizarre motion I have ever heard.”

But the honorable Mr. Loper has nothing but praise for the perspicacity and prudence of his legal tag team partner Doug Evans, as in: “Once again, I find myself concurring entirely with the state of Mississippi”.

Ideologically, Loper and Evans are joined at the hip. Defense counsel was uncomfortable with a juror who had an opinion regarding the guilt or innocence of Mr. Flowers and had Googled the case the moment she received her summons.

“I don’t see a problem with that,” Evans said. “I mean there are liberal blogs out there and then there are legitimate blogs.” Judge Loper beamed appreciatively.

I got the feeling that the Friends of Justice blog was being consigend to the illegitimate category.

With eleven white jurors and an unabashedly pro-prosecution judge is a conviction inevitable?

Precedent isn’t promising.

Not a single white juror in five prior trials has voted to acquit Curtis Flowers.

Juries in trials with a single black juror have convicted and imposed the death penalty.

But there are positive signs. Defense counsel was able to strike most of the people with intimate ties to murder victims and a firm conviction that Curtis Flowers is a mass murderer. Again and again, jurors of this type swore they could “set aside” their feelings and opinions if the judge asked them to. This emotional na├»vete was stunning.

William James, the nineteenth century American philosopher, explained why “older truths” are rarely abandoned. “Their influence is absolutely controlling,” he wrote. “Loyalty to them is the first principle – in most cases it is the only principle; for by far the most usual way of handling phenomena so novel that they would make for a serious rearrangement of our preconceptions is to ignore them altogether, or to abuse those who bear witness for them.”

Defense counsel in the Flowers is trying to convert eleven white jurors to a novel reassessment of long-accepted fact. In Winona’s respectable white community the guilt of Curtis Flowers is an “old truth”, a maxim so well established that it passes for common sense. Getting a single juror to re-evaluate the state’s case is like trying to convert a Baptist to Islam. The new idea, if accepted, would impact an entire web of social relationships. Friendships would be lost. Business opportunities would vanish. The doors and windows of polite society would slam shut.

How much easier to ignore this new truth while abusing those who bear witness to it. This explains the contempt Judge Loper has been heaping on Ray Carter and Alison Steiner this week. They represent a new truth which, if accepted, would reduce Winona’s white civilization to ruins.

In the next few days we will be witnessing a form of spiritual warfare in the courtroom. Loper and Evans will be reassuring the jurors that the old truth deserves their continued trust. Carter and Steiner will be preaching a new truth. At least one juror must experience a Damascus Road conversion in the next few days.

The challenge is formidable but not hopeless. Several of the jurors in this case were children back in 1996 when four people were killed execution-style in Winona Mississippi. Several other jurors are relatively new to Montgomery County. One juror is African American. Half the jury lives outside the comforting rhythms of the white mainstream. If we see a come-to-Jesus moment, it will likely come from this half of the jury.

If opening arguments are any indication, Curtis Flowers’ attorneys will be preaching for conversions.


Link to Friends of Justice --

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The New Jim Crow' author Michelle Alexander Endorses Gray-Haired Witnesses for Justice

Nancy LockhartJune 10, 2010 at 12:47pm
Subject: The New Jim Crow' author Michelle Alexander Endorses Gray-Haired Witnesses for Justice
The New Jim Crow Author, MICHELLE ALEXANDER APPLAUDS THE WORK OF GRAY-HAIRED WITNESSES

P r e s s R e l e a s e

Contacts:

B.J. Janice Peak-Graham / Marpessa Kupendua

1- 866-968-1188, Ext. 2

ghwitnesses@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/l/c870f;www.grayhairedwitnesses.blogspot.com/



WASHINGTON, June 9/Gray-Haired Witnesses for Justice News – Author and legal scholar, Michelle Alexander, has taken time from her current national book tour to strongly endorse the June 21, 2010 Gray-Haired Witnesses Fast for Justice in DC and their mission in a statement to their web editor and founding member, Marpessa Kupendua. In her new book this brave and insightful legal scholar and civil rights advocate argues that although Jim Crow laws have been eliminated, the racial caste system it set up was not eradicated. It’s simply been redesigned, and now racial control functions through the criminal justice system. In her support of the Gray-haired Witnesses for Justice movement, Ms. Alexander wrote:

"With extraordinary vision and courage, and in the tradition of Ida B. Wells and countless other women who have stood for justice in the face of severe racial oppression, the Gray Haired Witnesses for Justice are calling attention to the harm caused by America's latest caste system: mass incarceration. Women of color are the fastest growing group of the prison population today and the Gray Haired Witnesses for Justice are shining a bright light on the racial bias and cruelty of our criminal justice system. All Americans who care about justice should join them in their campaign to free the Scott sisters, who have been sentenced to die in prison for an extremely minor, non-violent offense. “

In a February, 2010 article which appeared in the Huffington Post, she wrote, “ The clock has been turned back on racial progress in America, though scarcely anyone seems to notice. All eyes are fixed on people like Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey who have defied the odds and achieved great power, wealth and fame.”

In referencing the focus of the Gray-Haired Witnesses on the case of the Scott Sisters, she had this to say, “The double life sentences imposed on the Scott sisters for an alleged robbery in Mississippi netting little more than $11 is a glaring example of a criminal justice system that is no longer much concerned with justice. No one was hurt or injured, and these women have no prior offenses. No other Western democracy subjects its own people to such draconian punishment for minor crimes. And no other country in the world incarcerates such a large percentage of its racial and ethnic minorities. This is Jim Crow justice, alive and well today. I urge all those of conscience to support the Scott sisters and the thousands of other prisoners who find themselves in similar shoes. Sadly, the Scott sisters are not alone. The Gray Haired Witnesses for Justice are standing up for all those suffering needlessly behind bars and we must join them. If we fail to act, history will judge us harshly."

Michelle Alexander is the author of "The New Jim Crow - Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness". Her book is taking the nation by storm, especially by major news analysts and commentators in examining issues of race bearing upon the era of the Obama administration. Ms. Alexander is a rising legal star who presents a bold and innovative argument that mass incarceration amounts to a devastating system of racial control.

On June 21, 2010, the Gray-Haired Witnesses will commence a Fast at the Department of Justice in a 10:00 a.m. formal appeal to Eric Holder, rejoin at the White House at Noon with a press conference and formal appeal to President Obama, and then continue at Lafayette Square Park from 1PM until 9PM for the duration of the fast with speakers, live performances and artists. They are calling on all people of good will to join them on that day and demand justice for the Scott Sisters and an end to the oversentencing, degradation and dehumanization of Black women in this system and nation as a whole.

Michelle Alexander is the author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2010). The former director of the Racial Justice Project of the ACLU in Northern California, she also served as a law clerk to Justice Harry Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court. Currently, she holds a joint appointment with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.



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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Winona Black Community Fears Jury Duty in Murder Trial of Curtis Flowers; Winona -- a Culture of Violence

Dr. Alan Bean, a forensic historian, covers the ongoing murder trial of Curtis Flowers of Winona, Mississipi. It's history in the making. Here is Dr. Bean's report from day two (posted on Dr. Bean's Friends of Justice website:

While Winona’s black community runs scared, would-be jurors are running a scam.

It started early. District Attorney Doug Evans was working through his standard voir dire questions. “Anything you’ve heard outside the courtroom needs to be dropped at the door,” he told the six dozen jurors remaining in the jury venire. “Does anyone think they couldn’t do that?”

An earnest-looking white woman raised her hand. “I don’t think I could,” she said. She had formed an opinion about the case, she explained, and no evidence she heard in the courtroom could possibly change her mind.

A black woman’s hand shot into the air. “I don’t think I could either,” she reported.

Seconds later, three more black jurors were saying the same thing.

Then the prosecutor asked if there was anyone who didn’t feel they could stand in judgment of another human being.

Eleven hands were raised, two white and nine black.

Ray Carter, Mr. Flowers lead counsel, used all his lawyerly skills to rehabilitate most of these people—if only for the time being. Most of them were desperate to avoid jury duty.

“Mr. Flowers is not guilty,” Carter told his captive audience. “In fact, Mr. Flowers is innocent.”

“This is improper,” Doug Evans roared, his voice dripping with indignation.

Carter was undeterred. He had expected this response.

“Judge,” he explained calmly, “I don’t want anyone to think that just because Curtis Flowers has been tried over and over again, that he’s guilty.”

Then the black attorney turned his attention to the jurors who claimed they couldn’t stand in judgment. Carter knew what they were thinking. Most of them didn’t believe Curtis Flowers was guilty, but they feared a powerful backlash from leading lights within the white community if they voted their conscience.

Almost all the “couldn’t-sit-in-judgment” people are economically dependent on influential white people, but it goes deeper than that. They wonder what would happen if their children or their grandchildren got cross-ways with the law. Would the authorities retaliate against the-guy-that-hung-the-jury-in-2010? Maybe not, but how can you be sure?

“I know some of you are uncomfortable being here,” Carter said. “But sometimes in life we are asked to do things we don’t like to do.”

Carter called one of the jurors who used the can’t-sit-in-judgment dodge by name. “Did you tell Mr. Evans you couldn’t sit in judgment, or did you just say you didn’t want to?”

“I didn’t say I couldn’t,” the woman explained, “I said I didn’t want to.”

Several black jurors adjusted their earlier comments, but others refused to budge. “I couldn’t do it,” one woman explained. “The ones who are in there, the decision that they would make, I couldn’t agree with it.”

Translation: “All those white folks are going to convict, I wouldn’t be able to go along, and I’m afraid I’d pay dearly. Either that, or I’d cave in to pressure and hate myself for the rest of my life.”

Most of the remaining white jurors are sincere Christians struggling to do the right thing. Everyone in their social world believes Curtis is guilty. It’s settled orthodoxy, like believing in God. A healthy percentage of white jurors freely admit that, from where they sit, Curtis Flowers looks guilty and no amount of evidence is going to change that belief.

Another subset of white jurors is capable of maintaining an open-mind on the guilt-innocence issue. They live on the borders of Winona’s social mainstream and haven’t been directly affected by the wagon-circling and the rush to judgment.

Then we have the smiling members of the juror class. These folks are desperate for a conviction but know they can’t admit as much. They attend church with the victims’ families, they see them socially, and, back in the day, they went to school with them. Nonetheless, they could put all that aside. They could wipe their minds of all prejudgments and remove every twinge of empathy and compassion from their hearts.

These men and women are perjuring themselves to get on the jury.

But the slightest suggestion that these folks might be less than sincere is greeted with howls of protest (literally) from Evans and Loper. If white jurors claim to be fair and impartial, they are.

At one point, Ray Carter tried to explain to the jurors that white people sometimes have trouble identifying black people, and vice versa.

Doug Evans bellowed his objection and Judge Loper sustained. “This trial isn’t about black and white,” Loper sermonized, “it’s about right and wrong and it’s about guilt and innocence.”

Really? Does the Judge believe his own rhetoric?

On some level, I think he does. Loper spent most of Day Two defending the white con artists working the room. Loper and Evans worked like experienced tag team partners.

There is something unnerving about DA Evans and his pet judge. Joey Loper lives in a world of legal platitudes and fair-and-impartial jurors who know instinctively when the state has passed the threshold of reasonable doubt.

Race is never an issue in Loperland. All-white juries are fine and dandy because race doesn’t matter. State witnesses can be trusted because they’re just doing their civic duty (at $30,000 a pop).

In Loperland, jurors work in pristine isolation from their peers—there is no such thing as jury psychology or a herd mentality, just earnest citizens motivated by persuasive evidence.

In Loperland, race is a myth and social class is a mirage. There is no history and no sociology.

In Loperland, prosecutors always operate in good faith, defendants are always guilty and defense attorneys (if they know what’s good for them) yield gracefully to the inevitable.

But while Judge Loper and DA Evans turn a blind eye to the obvious, I am beginning to wonder if a credible jury can be selected from this kind of venire.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Fear Stalks a Mississippi Town; Day One, The Trial of Curtis Flowers

Forensic historian Dr. Alan Bean files his first report from Winona, Mississippi where the murder trial of Curtis Flowers has opened:

You could feel the fear in the courthouse in the Montgomery County courthouse today.

The jury pool had already been cut from 600 to 156 when we arrived for day one of Curtis Flowers’ trial; by the end of the day only 76 jurors remained.

There were three categories of people in the room: the folks in category one were desperate to be on the jury; those in category two weren’t fussy about jury duty but were willing to serve if their number came up; category three people were desperate to get off the jury.

The eighty people eliminated from consideration today are all category three people. One woman said she couldn’t be objective because her elderly pastor might testify and she might give too much weight to his testimony.

Category one people had no such qualms. One man told the judge he was really close to three of the innocent victims murdered at the Tardy Furniture Store in 1996, but swore he could still be trusted to weigh the evidence fairly and objectively.

Judge Loper, as the law demands, took both jurors at their word.

Continued on the Friends of Justice website --

Friday, June 4, 2010

Civil Rights Activist Dick Gregory Urges Mass Support for the Gray-Haired Witnesses Fast for Justice

Contact: Nancy Lockhart
June 4, 2010 at 8:28am
Subject: DICK GREGORY Urges Mass Support for the Gray-Haired Witnesses Fast for Justice ~ By Sis. Marpessa

P r e s s R e l e a s e

Contacts: B.J. Janice Peak-Graham / Marpessa Kupendua 1- 866-968-1188, Ext. 2 ghwitnesses@gmail.com http://www.facebook.com/l/787a2;www.grayhairedwitnesses.blogspot.com/

WASHINGTON, June 3/Gray-Haired Witnesses for Justice News -- Fiery human rights activist, Dick Gregory, urged everyone to support the June 21, 2010 Gray-Haired Witnesses Fast for Justice in DC in an interview yesterday. The upcoming day-long event is to call attention to the shocking case of the Mississippi Scott Sisters, two women who each received double-life sentences for an alleged robbery of $11.00 almost 16 years ago. The public fast, press conference and rally also calls attention to the entire system of justice which increasingly incarcerates and oversentences non-violent Black female first time offenders, such as Jamie and Gladys Scott, punishing and many times actually destroying entire families.

"This is one of the worst cases I have ever heard of in my life," exclaimed Gregory, "My jaw dropped when I read that these women have been in prison for almost 16 years and aren't even charged with laying a hand on anyone! This country should be embarrassed to have such a blatant travesty of justice exist while wagging our finger at people abroad for human rights abuses. What we have going on here is the epitome of cruel and unusual punishment and is outrageous, even for Mississippi!".

The Gray-Haired Witnesses Fast for Justice was prompted by the very serious illness of now 38-yr. old Jamie Scott who entered prison in 1994 a healthy young woman yet suffered kidney failure this past January and was deprived adequate medical treatment for an extended period of time. Jamie has quickly declined to stage 5 (end stage) kidney disease and has suffered many life-threatening medical emergencies in an unclean environment.

Mr. Gregory was dumbfounded as to why MS Governor Haley Barbour has ignored all calls to pardon the women. "They went in at the ages of 19 and 22 with no prior criminal record, have consistently maintained their innocence, and even the testimony against them is documented as having been coerced! Even if they were guilty, we are talking about double-life sentences each, how does that make any kind of sense, don't their lives mean anything at all? If Gov. Barbour won't do the right thing then we need Eric Holder and President Obama to immediately step in! Washington, DC should be packed with people on June 21, demanding the immediate release of the Scott Sisters!".

On June 21, 2010, the Gray-Haired Witnesses will commence a Fast at the Department of Justice in a 10:00 a.m formal appeal to Eric Holder, rejoin at the White House at Noon with a press conference and formal appeal to President Obama, and then continue at Lafayette Square Park from 1PM until 9PM for the duration of the fast with speakers, live performances and artists. The Gray-Haired Witnesses are calling on all people of good will to join them on that day and demand justice for the Scott Sisters and an end to the oversentencing, degradation and dehumanization of Black women in this system and nation as a whole.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Employees tend to "stick around" more when companies promote diversity training

Engineer Gail Powley is a minority in her field -only 17.2 per cent of students in Canadian engineering programs are female.Photograph by: CANDACE ELLIOTT CANWEST NEWS SERVICE, For Canwest News Service; Edmonton Journal

Edmonton engineer Gail Powley figures diversity training makes companies, "more self-reflective on what their practices and processes are. As a result,(the workplace) becomes more open and transparent for everyone else."

And because satisfied employees tend to stick around, improving retention rates, companies benefit. Powley's institute reports that 36 per cent of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning) Canadians who experience discrimination will change careers, for instance.

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