On December 13, 2005, a San Jose jury found State Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement Agent Michael Walker not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the case of the killing of Rudy Cardenas. Cardenas' daughter Regina Cardenas said she was "Completely appalled. We didn't think that was a possibility at all. It was a shocker. I thought a hung jury was a strong possibility. … I thought [the prosecutor] did a very good job. It just all lay in the hands of the jury. Obviously they didn’t see it the way most of the community saw it."
The story of this trial of a lawman for shooting a citizen is a lesson in law enforcement's lack of responsibility to the community. Walker was indicted by a grand jury on July 28, 2004. The family of Rudy Cardenas and their community allies pressed for and got a rare open grand jury that was observed by the public and the press. The family's use of activism to bring the death of their loved one to the awareness of the public has been an inspiration to other families who have lost members to police violence.
Indybay obtained a grand jury transcript, on which this story is in part based. Cardenas lost his life on February 17, 2004 because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, because he somewhat fit the description of a wanted man, and because the officer he encountered was Agent Walker. Walker and other officers were doing surveillance in unmarked cars at a house where they expected to find David Gonzales, who was wanted for parole violation, when Cardenas passed by. He drove up in his van and then drove away, and Walker went to pull him over. Walker had very briefly seen a photo of Gonzales, and he mistook Cardenas for Gonzales. When Walker turned on his lights Cardenas was not willing to stop. He had a warrant out on him, although his wife, who was the complainant, was trying to have it canceled. Cardenas had methamphetamine in his system and may not have been thinking clearly.
Although Walker did not know the streets of San Jose well, and his car and the other officers' cars lacked radios on San Jose Police frequencies, Walker made the decision at that point to start a chase. Officials and stories in the press later said Gonzales was considered "armed and dangerous." Gonzales was convicted of an assault without a weapon in the 1990s and was at some level gang-connected, but there was no solid information that he was armed and dangerous.
In the grand jury hearing Liroff whittled away at this justification, finally saying to Walker's supervisor, Steve Davies, "So, in fact, you had no information, not only in this millennium, or in any preceding millennium, that this person had firearms or any other weapon."
"No, I did not," Davies responded.
The above is from Peter Maiden's "Justice Denied: A History of the Walker Trial" (SF Bay Area Indymedia) and was noted by Taylor. Thursday and we're in the midst of indymedia roundup. Here's one more excerpt:
Walker's defense showed the jury a video animation representing Walker's version of the final moments of the chase. It opened with a crime scene photo of Cardenas' abandoned van, next to Walker's unmarked car, at the mouth of the alley where their ride through Downtown San Jose had wound up. The scene then morphed into a cartoon. The jury saw a faceless version of Rudy run down the alley and into the parking lot as if through Walker's eyes. Cardenas twists his hips to his left, holding something in his hand. Walker fires two or three times. Cardenas then twists to his right. Walker fires again. It looked like a video game, where the player sees a threat and has to quickly blast it to win points. Yet this was not a game; rather it was a high-tech justification of homicide that became emblematic for me of the defense’s strategy. They attempted to show--in a slick, hi-tech presentation--that each step of the way, Walker acted professionally; that his training never failed him; and that he was sure and judicious in his actions. They sought to lay the entire burden of blame on Cardenas.
Taylor wonders how a "dramatization" was allowed to be shown to a jury and also wonders since violence was turned into a video game if the person creating the tape was inspired by Dexter Filkins who viewed a slaughter in Falluja, supposedly viewed, but wrote about it as though it were a video game?
Remember what Norah wanted noted earlier today? On the same topic, Durham Gal e-mails to note Patrick O'Neill's "Raleigh activists protest at Guantanamo" (Raleigh-Durham Independent):
It's been a busy month for multi-issue activist couple Scott Langley and Sheila Stumph, co-founders of the Raleigh Catholic Worker House.
Both have been arrested recently for acts of civil disobedience; Scott at an anti-torture action at the Johnston County Airport on Nov. 18, and both of them on Dec. 1 outside Central Prison to protest the execution of Kenneth Lee Boyd, who was the 1,000th person executed in the United States since 1977.
Langley and Stumph opened their house on Dorothea Drive, near Central Prison, 14 months ago to offer support, meals and a place to stay for families visiting loved ones on death row. There is no charge to stay at the worker house.
With little time to spare and court dates pending, Stumph and Langley took off for Cuba last week to join 23 other Catholic Workers and Christian activists from around the country for a 70-mile-plus protest march to a point near the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, where, on Tuesday, they were holding a vigil and fast to protest the reported torture of detainees at a prison where the United States had been holding suspected terrorists, some for more than four years without due process.
In June, President George W. Bush said: "You're welcome to go down yourself ... and take a look at the conditions" at Guantánamo. This group of activists "is calling his bluff," said Mike McGuire, a spokesperson for Witness Against Torture, the group sponsoring the march.
To sign a letter of support, click here.
Now we'll note Portland's highlight in full, freechelseagerlach's "A Statement from the family of Chelsea Gerlach" from Portland Indymedia:
A statement from the family of Chelsea Gerlach
author: email@example.com e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
A statement of love and support from the family of Chelsea Gerlach, a wrongly accused suspect of eco-vandalism.
In these normally joyous days before Christmas, our family has been gripped by the loss of our sister and daughter who has been suddenly and wrongfully incarcerated. We are both disturbed and baffled by the charges brought against her, as well as by the images presented in the press of a radical Chelsea Gerlach hardened by crime and malfeasance. The person we know and love is incapable of such acts and we have absolutely no reason to believe in her criminal involvement in these cases. Though we have been kept in the dark by a legal system that tells us little about the status of our beloved sister and daughter, we have the utmost confidence that the federal courts will vindicate Chelsea and that these ludicrous charges will be dropped. Unfortunately, none of us has any experience with legal matters and we fear that our ignorance will provide a disservice to Chelsea in her time of great need. For this reason we will only take questions through this email address: email@example.com. A website will also be created shortly to form a base for the large network of support Chelsea has throughout the country. We are all dedicated to keeping a constant watch to make sure that she is treated fairly and with respect, so that her innocence will not be clouded by the fear-inspiring and unfounded labels of "terrorist." Chelsea is a good person and a loving sister and daughter and we support and pray for her during these hardships. Thank you.
Chelsea and others aren't able to get their statements in the mainstream. But the FBI can work the press (and does). No case has been presented in court so one might think that, for instance, the New York Times might be interested in this story. One would be wrong. They're happy to run with public claims from the Justice Department. They did that with Jose Padilla as well. Remember when Padilla was supposed to be a dirty bomber? Press repeated it over and over. Of course, now that Padilla's finally been charged, there's no mention of a dirty bomb.
But the government can spy. And Lynda steers us to Terje Langeland's "Warriors, rescuers, spooks: The U.S. military's growing involvement in domestic affairs" (Colorado Springs Independent):
At the same time, it's becoming clear that the military is weaving itself more and more into an ever-expanding, intricate web of local, state, federal, military and cross-jurisdictional intelligence outfits, several of which for years have been spying on Americans engaged in political activism.
Collection of information on dissenters who have broken no laws, by both military and civilian agencies, is nothing new. The Pentagon amassed dossiers on anti-war protesters and other activists in the 1960s and early 1970s.
At Fort Carson, agents from the 5th Mechanized Infantry Division in the late 1960s infiltrated local peace groups, anti-poverty groups, "radical gatherings" at Colorado College and even church youth groups. They also got information about activists from Colorado Springs police, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and the local FBI office.
The Army's spying was condemned and officially ended following congressional hearings in the early 1970s, which also revealed massive surveillance of political and civil rights activists by the CIA and the FBI.
The FBI is back to its old tricks, however, working closely with local police agencies.
Three years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union uncovered documents showing that Denver police had put together intelligence files on more than 3,000 individuals and groups involved in political activism, the vast majority of whom had broken no laws.
As first reported by the Independent later that year, Colorado Springs police also contributed to the so-called "spy files." Moreover, both Denver and Springs police forwarded some of their information on activists to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in Denver.
In 2003, the New York Times reported that the FBI had been spying on anti-war protesters nationwide and had written a training manual to help local law enforcement counter political protests.
And lastly, Reid notes A.C. Thompson and Trevor Paglen's "The CIA's torture taxi" (San Francisco Bay Guardian):
THIS IS A story about an airplane, a Boeing 737 passenger jet.
This is also a story about torture, the war on terrorism, and the Central Intelligence Agency's practice of quietly snatching suspected terrorists and transporting them to dungeons in far-off lands, where, allegedly, they're detained indefinitely – without charges in any court of law in any country – drugged, beaten, threatened, and interrogated. –These two narrative threads, as you've probably guessed by now, are interwoven. A growing body of evidence suggests the plane you're about to read about is used by CIA agents to shuttle prisoners to clandestine jails around the world. And new clues, revealed here for the first time, link this airliner to a small office in Reno, Nev. – and to one of the biggest figures in Nevada politics.
• • •
The Boeing passenger jet in question, which trundled off the assembly line in Washington state in late 2001, looks unremarkable from the outside. Its paint scheme is low profile: The top half is painted white, the bottom is painted gray, and red and blue striping runs along the midsection of the vehicle and up the tail fin. There is no corporate logo of any sort on the aircraft. Stamped on the fuselage near the rear of the plane is a key clue to its shadowy life, a tracking code known as a "tail number," essentially the Federal Aviation Administration's version of a license plate.
FAA records show plane number N313P was initially purchased by a Massachusetts company called Premier Executive Transport Services Inc., a tiny firm that owned one other plane.
As soon as Premier acquired the Boeing, the company began making intriguing modifications to what is normally a short-range aircraft – mainly the sorts of things you'd do if you wanted to fly epic distances without stopping for gas. The changes are documented in a thick sheaf of FAA paperwork obtained by the Bay Guardian.
First, Premier tweaked the wings, installing "winglets," little vertical fins designed to help planes take off from short runways and under tough weather conditions and to boost fuel efficiency, and thus, range. Next, Premier put in an auxiliary fuel tank system, adding seven extra fuel cells, again increasing the vehicle's range. Then, in 2002, the plane was sent off to a hangar in Dallas, where technicians added a sophisticated data and antenna system, a 24-inch flat-panel TV, and a new "executive interior."
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