Case SynopsisBy Herman Bell (2010)

Case Synopsis

Back row: (L-R) Nuh Washington, Gabriel Torres, Jalil Muntaqim Front row: (L-R) Herman Bell, Francisco Torres

In the aftermath of the murders of Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Dr. King, Fred Hampton, and Mark Clark, to name a few, coupled with the Civil Rights Movement, the burgeoning Black consciousness movement, and the anti-war movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the tone and spirit of those times can be described as highly charged and volatile. And in the wake of what had been perceived as an unambiguous racist policy of police malevolence, willful brutality, excessive use of deadly force and general disrespect of Black people's rights, scores of policemen at that time were seriously injured or fatally shot in the Black community.

I come out of that time period. In 1974, the New York 5 (Nuh Washington, Gabriel Torres, Jalil Muntaqim, Francisco Torres, and me) stood trial for killing two New York City policemen, to which we all pled not guilty. This first trial resulted in a hung jury. During the second trial, charges against the Torres brothers were dismissed. Coerced witnesses, manufactured and circumstantial material evidence, along with prosecutorial and judicial misconduct are what persuaded the jury to convict me, Nuh, and Jalil at the end of the second trial. No eyewitness identified any of us as the assailants. Years and years of state and federal appeals have been unsuccessful.

I am a former member of the Black Panther Party. It's now generally known from documents revealed by the congressional 1976 Church Committee (which were not admitted as evidence during my trial) that a domestic program of political repression cointelpro existed to neutralize or destroy the Black Panther Party. In fact, any Black political organization or individual deemed to be a threat to U.S. security, as determined by then FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, was a prime target. Hoover gave his agents a wide range of discretionary power legal and otherwise to achieve this objective. Thus the Church Committee report revealed a U.S. government secret war initiated against the Black protest movement which I was part of.

Since being granted our paper freedom, Black Americans have long claimed the right to pursue happiness in our own fashion. Our historic fight since slavery has always been one that focused on carving a political and economic niche for ourselves in America. During the 1960s and 1970s, people were killed on both sides. To the degree that my humanity compels me to value and feel remorse for the loss of all life, human and otherwise, I feel remorse that people were killed and families and lives were destroyed. The past is behind me now. Many from those days have moved on and have been forgiven, but I've not been permitted to do so. In the Summer of 2010, I will again appear before the New York State Parole Board. I am requesting your help. I ask you to please consider my personal evolution these past nearly 37 years of imprisonment in composing your letter of support for my release.

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