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Victims of a 30-year-old police vendetta

By Elizabeth Schulte | February 9, 2007 | Page 2

EIGHT FORMER Black Panthers were arrested last week in connection with a 1971 killing of a San Francisco police officer--even though the same charges were dropped 30 years ago because defendants had been tortured into confessing.

Murder charges were dropped against Harold Taylor and two codefendants in 1975 when it was revealed that New Orleans police had tortured them into giving false confessions.

In 1973, the three were abused by New Orleans police for several days--including being stripped naked, beaten, covered in blankets soaked with boiling water, smothered, and shocked with cattle prods on their genitals. In 1974, a court ruled that San Francisco and New Orleans police had engaged in torture to get the confessions, and the next year, a San Francisco judge dismissed charges against the three men.

But two years ago, a San Francisco grand jury was convened to reopen the case. Police claim they now have new evidence that implicates the former Panthers.

The roundup on January 23 involved law enforcement across the country. Taylor was arrested in Florida; Richard Brown, Richard O'Neal, Ray Boudreaux and Henry Watson Jones in California; and Francisco Torres in New York.

Police are also charging two men who are already in jail--political prisoners Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqin, who are members of the New York Three, accused of killing a New York police officer in 1971--and are still looking for another.

"People ask the question, why pick up these men after they've been around, have not attempted to elude the authorities, have led productive lives all these years?" Torres' attorney Michael Warren told Amy Goodman on the Democracy Now! radio program."John Ashcroft, shortly after he was appointed attorney general, made a vow and a promise that he was going to go after as many ex-Black Panthers as he possibly could...And that's when this program was instituted...

"The most recent reason relates to retaliation. These men, after being tortured, and after the grand jury ended in 2006, went on the road with the Center for Constitutional Rights and talked about their torture...That's what this case is about."

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