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On the subject of collective struggle for human rights

I have recently had the honor and pleasure of begining to read Assoc. Professor Keramet Reiter’s newest book (23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement)…

So far, I’ve read the Introduction and Ch. #1…. A Supermax life…
And, from what I’ve read, together with my personal knowledge and experience of having spent 35+ years in this Cal. System (I suppose 40+ years including the juvenile system); and I am impressed and highly appreciative of Professor Keramet Reiter’s thoughtful in-depth research and analysis of this very important issue… One that most people continue to be oblivious to !?!

I’d like to say that Professor Keramet Reiter’s summary review of the record and related analysis thereof (with respect to my New Folsom Incident resulting in my April 1990, conviction and 21-yr.- to-life sentence (2d degree murder of a fellow prisoner), is the fairest summarization by mainstream media, format, I’ve seen to date.

This means alot to me because I have tried repeatedly to be heard on the facts and clarify the record on this case for decades to no avail…An example of the impact effects of incarceration civil death! What the book doesn’t include that I’d point out here is the following:

A. Prior to trial, we had a hearing on motions concerning prejudice when a jury sees an accused standing trial in visible restraint and prison garb.
After the parties presentation, the judge acknowledged such prejudice and granted our motion prohibiting the use of visible restraint and allowing me to wear street clothes…

Once the assault on atty Cozens occurs… I’m denied personal clothes (given jailhouse khakis); and I’m seated approximately 10 feet away from my atty. In front of the defence table on open display, heavily shackled hand and foot, with 5-6 sheriff deputies, and CDC guards standing in semi circle around me…

This is picture jury has whole judge tells jury they are to assume I had nothing to do with the assault on attorney!?!
Not a peep from court attorneys etc about shackles seating security, etc.
The court repeatedly states there’s nothing to indicate I was in any way involved in assault on attorney… This shackling security seating issue has never received federal courts review on the merits!!!
My original appts appeal attorney made a major error in the initial appeal… Claiming the state presented the case as a pre-meditated AB hit, and the defence was self-defence…

This is the first paragraph recited in the 3d DCA ruling, denying my initial appeal… And has been rected by CDCR, the Parole BD., and others ever since!?!

In 2008 I presented the Parole BD with trial transcripts proving this AB hit prosecution position is false. They sort of acknowledged this … “.. We don’t really know what the circumstances were that led up to melee in cell…” It’s still a problem. In October 1990, staff set me up for a ‘ gladiator type fight’ in Pelican Bay SHU … It was a fist fight between me and another prisoner… It was Retaliation for my civil litigation against staff …

The guard in control booth shot with high power H&K 9mm assault rifle and used a “Glazier” bullet (low velocity, with tip packed with between 180-300 tiny BBs.. Designed to explode on impact and cause maximum damage); it hit me near my right wrist and nearly blew my hand all the way off… This gunshot injury was very severe! I needed multiple surgeries, and was unable to use my hand, fingers, wrist, forearm, for close to 18 months (have been permanently disabled ever since).

During this 18 month time period I was in a constant, daily battle, with prison officials, and Pelican Bay medical staff. As well as their superiors at CDCR Headquarters, for the minimum in medical care and treatment… In constant untreated pain …. A true living nightmare beyond belief for many people (for skeptics such added torture re: intentional denial of care and treatment, and minimums in assistive aide. Between October 24, 1990-to-2015. Such is very well documented and supported in approximately 10+ civil actions. Prevailing in 2 Federal Court Civil Jury Trials… The second of which I had to handle myself… May 2009-Northern District Cal., Oakland Division).

I nearly had the hand amputated a few times…And suffered additional disability behind prisoners intentional denial of care and treatment….
This is the time period that I was also having the court appointed appellate atty doing my initial appeal briefs, and I didn’t catch his major blunder re: facts of the case until several years later….

After the mid-trial assault on my attorney., … The attorney advised me that I should have him do a motion for mistrial, based on serious conflict of interest and prejudicial effect of assault publicity. The attorney (Cozens), stated in his declaration in support of the motion… That Sacramento detectives and CDCR special agents talked to him at hospital, and told him they were investigating my possible involvement in the attempt on his life… That rumors were that the AB was not happy with his representation, and had possibly put out a contract on him… And there were currently more than 300 AB affiliates on the streets, anyone of whom might try to kill him. Cozens then stated in his declaration:

“If defense counsel believes in the slightest degree that defendant was involved in the attempt on his life…He would have every insentive for not fully representing defendant to help insure defendant is convicted of first degree murder ….”

The judge tells Cozens that he’s finding there’s no evidence I was involved only speculation… Further, that he (the judge), is finding based on what was in front of him ,no evidence of my involvement…

The judge then tells Cozens there’s no basis for he and I not continuing to communicate freely for remainder of trial, and he tells Cozens he believes Cozens can continue to forcefully represent my interests on an intellectual level for remainder of trial…”. And Cozens basically agrees…

Notably, the court never directly asks Cozens what he personally believes. ???
Nor does Cozens state his belief that I was involved !!!

I found out in 1998-1999…That Cozens always harbored the belief I was involved; and,… incredibly, the senior judge of the Sacramento Superior Court allowed Cozens to carry a concealed pistol under his jacket for remainder of trial.… in the court room! (People familiar with the courts will recognize the madness here, more so when Cozens had no firearms experience, the pistol was provided by the sheriff, as well as an undercover sheriff, seated behind Cozens the remainder of trial… Presented to me as: “Oh, he’s another one of my investigators you never met before” !?!). Remember, no one said a peep about shackling, security, seating arrangement….

This entire scenario, only briefly touching on key points above,….Stinks of major U.S. Constitutional violations of right to fair and impartial trial.
Just being shackled in front of a jury,….Absent limited compelling circumstances (that are factually supported on the record).

Because such is recognized as being so prejudicial to an accused right to fair trial …. Just shackling alone has been deemed “Prejudicial per se” by the U.S.Supreme Court…. This means reversal is mandatory.… One is not required to demonstrate prejudice !!!

C. I’ve never been able to have the federal courts review the above violations of my fundamental rights… This is because,… Again, I spent more than 20 years battling for arm care,… Part of my 30 years of daily solitary confinement torture… And related battles to gain relief from such endless torture…
And, the attorney I paid 15 grand to do my habeas corpus missed the AEDPA ( Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Ac , signed into law by Prez Clinton, in 1996), 1 year filing deadline by 9+ months… Telling me: “Don’t worry about that deadline, it doesn’t apply to you” ??

Where’s the justice of our great American system at for working class poor people like me???

If you come upon ol lady liberty let me know so I can send an SOS her way…..
Sooo, I am personally grateful for Professor Keramet Reiter’s summary of my case resulting in my term to life sentence…

Which, together with the above facts, might somehow help get the justice an olde small time petty crook, turned prisoner rights litigator/activist…Was entitled to more than 27 years ago.

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Report back from Prisoner Representatives’ first monitoring meeting with CDCR

From Center for Constitutional Rights
May 23, 2016

By Todd Ashker

At the beginning of this first meeting, it became clear that there was a misunderstanding about its function.  CDCR thought the meeting was for us to listen to them.  Why would we put a term into our Settlement that would have us listen to them?  We listen to them every second of our lives.  We see the purpose of these calls as an opportunity for us to be heard and to have a discussion with people in authority.

Despite this initial confusion, we were able to lead the meeting. CDCR got unfiltered information from prisoners who know what is going on in their prison cells and yards.  We are a leadership group the CDCR knows.  They know we have integrity.  The information we shared at the meeting came not only from the experiences of us four main reps, but also from the other veterans of the SHU, members of our class who have written and met with our attorneys.

We raised in strong terms that some of us who have made it to General Population yards are essentially in modified SHUs (Security Housing Units), in some respects worse than Pelican Bay SHU, although in some respects better.   Conditions, policies and practices that we are experiencing in some of the General Population yards are not what we expected when we settled our case.  After spending decades in solitary we cannot accept many of these conditions.  Too many prisoners are simply warehoused, and there are not enough jobs or programs to give us skills, engage our minds and prepare us to return to our communities.  Guards need training in ‘professional’ behavior.   Bullying and humiliation should never be tolerated.

CDCR may have been surprised at the tenor, strength and substance of our approach.   We expect at the next meeting, we will all understand the agenda and purpose well ahead of time.   We also think a longer meeting will allow for a full discussion and useful interaction.  We hope CDCR officials come to welcome these historic meetings as useful because they will be if prisoners’ perspectives are heard, used and received by them.