FOR News December 2001
P.O. Box 268
By Jeff Stack
Some Missouri officials have publicly insisted our state has never come even close to executing an innocent man. Perhaps they’re unfamiliar with the case of Joe Amrine. [Nor are they publicly cognizant that five men executed at the Potosi prison had credible claims of innocence (see MADP’s "Miscarriages of Justice" report) and that several other individuals wrongly convicted and sentenced to death, were finally exonerated-- all since 1989] But back to Joe Amrine.
Amrine, an African-American man who’s steadfastly maintained his innocence, was convicted in the 1985 murder of fellow prisoner Gary Barber in the Missouuri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City. Prosecutors depended solely on the “eyewitness” accounts of three prisoners. In the years since, all of them have admitted they lied, due to coersion and promises by officials to relocate the men out of the prison and/or to avoid being charged with capital murder themselves.
Nonetheless, Amrine could receive an execution date as soon as late January and most likely in the first few months of 2002. Officially, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon requests the state Supreme Court set execution dates for prisoners who exhaust their court appeals. Amrine, along with five other men are currently in this torturous holding pattern.
Judge Tom Brown III, with the state circuit court in Cole County, was the county’s prosecutor who “successfully” tried Amrine for murder. Brown acknowledged in a 1998 federal hearing, “I don’t know that we would have had to have the testimony of three of them (the prison “witnesses”). But without any of them, then I think we would not have had a case.” These days no witness seems ready to reliably state Amrine stabbed Barber. It’s uncertain the assailant will ever be convicted of the crime.
John Noble was the only corrections officer in the immediate vicinity of the crime. He testified at Amrine’s trial and in an investigative report, that he saw Barber, (apparently after being attacked) run after not Amrine, but Terry Russell--one of the men who falsely identified him as the killer. Prosecutors casted doubt upon his testimony by inferring he couldn’t ID Russell; Noble only was unable to recall the prisoner’s name. Amrine’s court-appointed trial attorney failed to buttress the testimony through additional testimony. The lawyer also failed to call to the witness stand a few other prisoners who could have supported Amrine’s version of events, while neglecting to call a single witness during the penalty phase of the trial.
Officials understandably should have considered Russell their top suspect, especially as just hours earlier Russell and Barber had been released from “solitary” cells, where they had been confined the past week for fighting. Russell failed to pass significant portions of a lie-detector test pertaining to his whereabouts that day. In the 1998 hearing, he admitted to committing perjury to avoid being as he contended, falsely charged with Barber’s murder, and thus jeopardizing his upcoming parole date (Not long after the trial he was freed but some years later he was convicted of armed robbery and murder, then re-incarcerated.)
The other men who recanted their earlier accounts—Jerry Poe and Randall Ferguson— both agreed to be videotaped during questioning the past few years. During these depostions they recalled cooperating with officials in large part to be moved out of the prison and avoid being continually assaulted sexually and physically. Ferguson was especially emotional in his deposition, noting soon after the Amrine’s conviction, he tried without success through correspondance to convince public officials, including Presidents Reagan and Bush, Sr., of his perjury. On the videotoape, he has shows physical proof of his remorse: scars on his arms and neck of suicide attempts. He also initiated contact with Amrine’s current team of appellate attorneys, Sean O’Brien and Kent Gipson.
Students with Webster University of St. Louis have been researching his case for the past year. A team of students with the University of Missouri Peace Studies program’s new Innocence Project have been looking into his case along with several law students and myself. Some MU students and faculty are also putting together a videotape about Amrine’s case. Stay tuned for more details about developments of when and how you can view the finished efforts. Please also contact Gov. Bob Holden’s office (see specific details on the front page) and urge him to drop charges against Amrine or at least convene a board of inquiry to look more fully into his case.
Jeff Stack is coordinator of the Mid-Missouri FORBack to top
Remembering Those Killed by the State
The year 2001 was another bloody one in the annals of so-called "justice" in Missouri. State officials executed seven men over the year, establishing our state sadly as the 3rd most killing U.S. state since the death penalty was again deemed constitutional. Please join in mourning all those murdered in our society during the past year including those listed below with their execution dates. Let's also remember families and other loved ones who have suffered such a loss. And let us work toward a time when murder by the state is not wrongly confused with "justice" but is dismissed as revenge.
Stanley Lingar   February 7
Death Penalty Legislative Notes
The Missouri State Legislature will be convening once more in a few weeks In recent days, much debate and readjusting has begun over the redrawing of House and Senate districts across the state. Members of Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty are hoping to follow up on the relative victory accomplished last session— passage of the law to prohibit death-sentencing of mentally-retarded citizens.
Legislative Alert Network
"Peace on Earth"
It's a wonderful declarative phrase, shared frequently this season. But it's one remaining elusive, especially due to our own government's actions, most recently over the past few months in Afghanistan. U.S. bombers and troops have killed more than 3500 civilians in that impoverished country since the bombing began October 7, according to Marc Herold, a University of New Hampshire professor of economics.
Herold's report, released Dec. 10, is based on news and first-hand accounts. The Pentagon has repeatedly denied reports of civilian casualties there; most U.S. media outlets have either neglected to cover such deaths or dutifully colored any account with statements like its accuracy "couldn't be independently confirmed." President Bush recently proclaimed: "We're offering help and friendship to the Afghan people" and "I've told the nation more than once that ours is a war against evil."
"People have to know that there is a human cost to war, and that this is a war with thousands of casualties," says Herold. "These were poor people to begin with, and, on top of that, they had absolutely nothing to do with the events of September 11."
For an alternative news source you can also listen to Democracy Now! online or over the airwaves on KOPN (89.5FM) in Mid-MO weekdays 8-9 a.m. And please do stand for justice and dignity for all the world‚s peoples; do what you can to make peace on earth a reality, not just lyrics for songs.Back to top
PEACE PLEDGE: TO STOP SPREAD OF ANTI-TERRORIST WAR TO IRAQ
I support peace for Iraq. I grant permission to use my name and city publicly as an opponent of the ongoing economic and bombing war on Iraq, and of any escalation of that war.
The Bush Administration is considering pursuing military action against as many as 40 countries suspected of harboring terrorists. Iraq remains a prime target. In the past 11 years the US has led a devastating economic and air assault on that country in an effort to weaken Saddam Hussein. This war has - according to UN estimates - killed over a million people (including an estimated average of 150 children a day). The US rationalizes escalation of the war against Iraq as part of a general war on terrorism although no links to the Sept. 11 attack have been disclosed, nor are they likely. Outgoing Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, told incoming President George Bush in January, 2001, "Iraq no longer poses a military threat to its neighbors." Iraq's UN Ambassador has said it is willing to let weapons inspectors return if the bombing and economic sanctions are lifted, a solution that would promote international security and the welfare of the Iraqi people.
Here are a few suggestions of what you can do:
The Pledge is an action of the Campaign of Conscience for the Iraqi People, co-sponsored by the national Fellowship of Reconciliation, Voices in the Wilderness and American Friends Service Committee and others.
Bread and food not more bombs and war for Afghanistan, nor for Iraq or any of the other couple dozen countries branded as harboring terrorists. Immorally and ironically, these are the same peoples Pentagon war-planners seem intent to terrorize with weapons of the U.S. arsenal.
Please consider joining in any or all weekly peace vigils in Columbia:
You Do Not Have to Be a Pacifist to Oppose This War
By Ryan Amundson
(Editor's note: Craig Amundson, Ryan's brother, was killed in the horrific attack on the Pentagon. Craig was survived by his wife, Amber and their two children, Elliot, 5, and Charlotte, 3. We extend our heartfelt condolences to their family and those affected by the tragedies and the ensuing retaliatory violence in Afghanistan)
Despite polls suggesting consensus, there is opposition to the war. This comes from more than just pacifists. A variety of voices are joined in the movement. You don‚t have to be a pacifist to question this war.
Like the rest of Americans, those in the peace movement are mainly concerned about safety. It is for this reason they criticize a war that is futile and counterproductive, speaking out against the unnecessary death of innocent people here and abroad. They ask that other options be explored rather than suppressed.
My sister-in-law Amber, my brother Barry, many others, and I are part of this growing voice. We went on a march from Washington, DC to New York City under the banner "Our grief is not a cry for war." This was particularly relevant for those of us in my family on the march, as we have been personally affected by the September 11 attack. Others who lost family members were on the march as well. We know that violent retaliation will never bring comfort, nor will it build a safer world.
Aside from some people shouting remarks like, „"Traitors," "commies," and "go home," we found overwhelming support. This encouragement came from all who understand that we are certain to find ourselves in a time of sustained war and chaos as long as we use brute force to fight a shadow. This perspective is gaining favor, even as "dissenters" are shouted down as unrealistic, emotional, and irrational.
Indeed, opposition to the war is partly based on feelings rather than logic. After the horror of September 11, the last thing anyone wants is for people to suffer like those of us who lost loved ones in the attack. The war against Afghanistan has already cost thousands of innocent deaths. For some, the costs and benefits of killing blameless people cannot be weighed.
There is a logical basis for opposing the war, however, that supporters choose not to address. They gloss over the probability that the war will not effectively combat terrorism. Rather than addressing this point, they brand skeptics as cowards, anti Americans, or just idealistic pacifists.
It is assumed that if the US does not continue to exercise violent force, then "they" will get us. Anyone who questions the war is thus considered borderline suicidal or just stupid, but this situation cannot be analytically simplified into a case of "kill or be killed." Tales of heroism, such as the passengers bringing down flight 93, are not analogous to stopping the global threat of terrorism. If that were the case, then some of the so-called peaceniks would be the first to fight on the front lines.
Many who criticize the bombing against Afghanistan do in fact believe that war is sometimes necessary and useful, but they realize that this is not one of those circumstances. It would be easy if winning the war meant defeating terrorism, but catching one man cannot impede the vast number of sophisticated terrorist cells operating independently throughout the world, including the United States. Bin Laden is merely a symbol. Afghanistan is just a scapegoat.
Does that mean the war should be expanded into other countries? No, because the perilous situation we find ourselves in will only be inflamed by military force. War does not recognize or improve the complex social, political, and economic conditions in which terrorism thrives. The threat will persist and grow until a multi-dimensional approach is implemented.
That is why this moment in history is so crucial. Terrorism is a profound menace to our security. We have to take this threat very seriously. To the dismay of many, the fight against terrorism is taking the form of an inept reaction bolstered by fear, false assumptions, misinformation, and silence. Moving beyond is essential.
At the same time, terrorism is not an issue that can be "solved" like a math problem. Although the peace movement offers no absolute solutions, neither does the Bush Administration. In fact, the Administration's actions are counterproductive. As the current undertaking progresses, retaliatory terrorist attacks are certain to follow.
On the other hand, the search for ways to break the cycle of violence holds the possibility of increased safety. War fever must be cured, the news media must be neutral, commentators must be critical, the government must be transparent, and the public must be involved. Meaningful discourse within our democracy is required to explore and implement actions that will truly make our world safer.Back to top
By Charlie Crowley
America was hit today.
So the pop stars come out to sing
You who never fucked up once
My heart bleeds
You who make me tired
America What will you do to me next?
--Charley Crowley is a freshman at St. Louis University and a fellow social-justice minded person. He's been active with the Amnesty International group on campus. This is a reaction of his to the Sept. 11 attacks, pop culture, and the media.Back to top
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