MOVE 9 PAROLE: Young Teen Gets Jaded By Justice System
by Linn Washington, Jr.
Last week’s Parole Board decision involving that MOVE trio (who’ve served time longer than the average third-degree murder case) underscores the pollution of politics in the justice system....The reason why so many people feel racism infects law, from police to judges to prisons, results from so many being jerked by the justice system so often.
YOUNG TEEN GETS JADED BY JUSTICE SYSTEM
By Linn Washington Jr.
Like many young people during this unusually energized political season Eddie started a petition campaign.
Politics definitely drives the petition started by this 13-year-old Southwest Philadelphia resident.
But his campaign has nothing to do with presidential candidates or any others seeking political office.
Eddie’s petition involves his grandfather; a man currently incarcerated in a Pennsylvania prison yet is now eligible for release on parole.
Eddie wants his grandfather home.
“I did the petition because I ain’t seen him since I was a baby,” Eddie said recently during a conversation in Center City. “I don’t think his incarceration is right.”
Eddie’s grandfather is serving a 30-100-year prison term for the fatal shooting of a Philadelphia policeman three decades ago this August.
Eddie’s grandfather is Eddie Africa, one of the MOVE 9 convicted for the death of Officer James Ramp during the violent clash with police in the city’s Powelton Village section on August 8, 1978.
Based on actions by the state’s Board of Probation and Parole last week, it doesn’t appear that Eddie will see his granddad come home any time soon.
Last week this Board denied parole to three female members of the MOVE 9.
That ruling means more prison time for Debbie Africa, Janet Africa and Jeanene Africa. (All MOVE members adopt ‘Africa’ as their last name.)
Board members based their denial on four rationales according to published reports: refusal to accept responsibility; showing a lack of remorse; denying the nature and circumstance of the offense; and receiving a negative recommendation from the prosecuting attorney.
This parole denial pleased Philly’s tough-as-nails DA Lynne Abraham who stated in a statement that the imprisoned MOVE members “should serve as much time as possible.”
While Abraham, in her statement, criticized this trio for never expressing regret for the death and injury on 8/8/78, a statement issued by the MOVE organization blasted the Parole Board and prosecutors for imposing unjust standards.
MOVE’s statement castigates the Parole Board for demanding admissions of guilt as a condition for parole from persons who’ve “maintained their innocence from the very beginning…”
All of those MOVE members convicted for that 1978 clash received the same 30-100-year sentence despite police testifying to only seeing the five male members with guns during that fatal clash.
The judge that found those MOVE members guilty after a non-jury trial justified slapping the same sentence on the men and women with the specious statement that since they went to trial “as a family” they should leave his courtroom with the same prison sentence.
This judicial stance sliced up the concept of punishment fitting the crime.
This judge also admitted publicly that after hearing testimony during that 19-week trial, he didn’t know who fired the fatal shot.
Who fired the fatal shot is a lingering question.
Police testimony during that 1980 trial stated the bullet that killed Officer Ramp and the bullets that seriously injured three other officers came from one gun.
Police never were able to link a specific MOVE member to the weapon they contend fired the fatal shot.
Further, the fatal bullet wound Officer Ramp sustained entered his back while he was facing the MOVE compound where MOVE members were huddled in the basement.
“How can my grandfather shoot a cop in the back if the cop is standing in front of where they say my grandfather was?” young Eddie wonders. “From what I’ve heard about what happen, the experience ain’t right!”
Just hours after the end of that August 1978 shootout, then Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo ordered demolition of the MOVE compound on N. 33rd Street near Powelton Avenue.
This demolition constituted the destruction of a crime scene because it took place after a hasty police investigation of questionable thoroughness and before any independent investigation of the scene on behalf of MOVE members charged with crimes that day.
Further, this demolition violated an order issued by a Philadelphia judge a few days earlier barring city officials from razing the property for any reason.
Many thought the MOVE females would obtain parole given irregularities and their being unarmed.
Two female non-MOVE members also arrested on 8/8/78 did not land in prison.
Authorities dropped charges against one of the non-MOVE members for lack of evidence and the other female won a jury acquittal – again for lack of evidence of wrong-doing.
The Parole Board’s “blatantly unfair decision can only serve to validate the argument that the MOVE 9 are indeed ‘political prisoners,’” contends local activist/journalist Hans Bennett, a supporter of MOVE and death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Last week’s Parole Board decision involving that MOVE trio (who’ve served time longer than the average third-degree murder case) underscores the pollution of politics in the justice system.
Last week’s decision by the NYC judge to acquit the three policemen involved in the fatal shooting of unarmed Sean Bell symbolizes this pollution.
That judge said he found the version of the fatal event presented the officers’ attorneys more credible than testimony of Bell’s two friends -- the victims.
A Philly judge acquitted the three policemen charged with the vicious beating of a MOVE member on 8/8/78 – a beating captured by TV cameras.
The reason why so many people feel racism infects law, from police to judges to prisons, results from so many being jerked by the justice system so often.
Linn Washington Jr. is an award-winning writer who teaches journalism at Temple University. This article originally appeared in the Philadelphia Tribune Newspaper.