Sunday, February 10, 2013
Grant Lynne Stewart a compassionate release
Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner. We're grabbing from Thursday's snapshot to note the latest.
Cindy Sheehan is calling on people to write political prisoner Lynne Stewart. Lynne Stewart early on in her career became the people's attorney. That means her clients were often not the ones who could afford to pay for legal representation. It means also that she represented all of the people. Not just the cuddly types. This became a problem during the so-called War on Terror -- a never-ending war. You can't have a Lynne Stewart out there. Not someone who stands up. You need cowards. And they're always in wide supply. In 2005, Lynne Stewart was found guilty. Elaine Cassel (Find Law) explained what was taking place:
Prior to September 11, 2001, many attorneys might have sided with Stewart. They would certainly have seen a blatant Sixth Amendment violation in both the SAMs and the eavesdropping regulations - and possibly seen First Amendment violations when it came to the SAMs. And they might also have agreed that to honor the right to counsel, an attorney ought to try to resurrect the traditional attorney-client relationship despite these unconstitutional constraints.
Now, however, the First and Sixth Amendments have been gutted--at least in terms of the attorney-client relationship. Indeed, as I argued in the first article I wrote about Stewart, the government seems to be conducting an all-out assault on the right to counsel.
Defense attorneys who represent alleged terrorists - or even detainees who are merely suspected of some connection to terrorism -- now know that the government may listen in on their attorney-client communications. They also know that this eavesdropping may give rise to evidence that may be used in their own prosecution for terrorism if they cross the imaginary line drawn by the government.
How can these attorneys be zealous advocates with this government-inspired fear overshadowing their every word?
If the attorneys are prosecuted, they can expect, at trial, to be conflated with their clients - just as Stewart was. The prosecution showed an old tape of Osama bin Laden promising revenge if Rahman were not released. In a courtroom only a short distance from Ground Zero, the tape must have meant a great deal. But it related to Rahman, not Stewart. Though Rahman may be a Bin Laden confederate, that does not mean his attorney is.
Lynne is guilty of nothing. She broke no law. She broke a Special Administrative Measure. That's not a law. She broke it by giving Reuters a press release from her client. That happened when Bill Clinton was president. Janet Reno was Attorney General. The Justice Dept looked into the matter. They didn't file charges against Lynne because Janet Reno knew the law and knew breaking a SAM is not breaking a law. Life went on. Then the Supreme Court gave the presidency to Bully Boy Bush and he picked John Ashcroft to be his Attorney General. Ashcroft went gunning for Lynne and he should have been reigned in by judges. Instead, he was allowed to let his crazy run free.
Falsely linking Lynne to 9-11 and holding the trial at Ground Zero allowed Ashcroft to get a conviction -- he linked her to 9-11 the same way the administration linked Iraq to 9-11 when trying to sell the Iraq War. In October of 2006, US District Court Judge John Koetl sentenced Lynne to 28 months. He noted, in his remarks, her years of work, her public service. Lynne began serving her sentence on November 18, 2009. The delay had to do with medical care for breast cancer. Bully Boy Bush was gone from the White House. Barack Obama was President of the United States. A Constitutional professor, he claimed. Surely, this would be good for Lynne. Maybe, as our Elaine's noted, Lynne reminded Barack too much of his own mother? Whatever the reason, Barack becoming president wasn't good for Lynne. Under Barack, Lynne's 28 month sentence was replaced with a 10 year prison sentence.
As Lynne's husband Ralph Poynter noted on Black Agenda Radio, week of January 21st, Lynne's cancer has returned.
Ralph Poynter: For months, we have been worried about a spot that's shown on Lynne's lung -- one of her lungs. And we did not want to go public with it until we were sure what was happening. What is happening is her breast cancer is spreading. It has spread to the other lung and to parts of her back. We feel that it is a death sentence in the prison. We fought in the beginning to keep Lynne out of jail, to make them take her from a local hospital with the doctor's objection because we could see the hand writing on the wall. This was not taken up as a legal issue and Lynne went to prison and now the other shoe has fallen. Her cancer is spreading. She is in Fort Worth, Texas subjected to the regulations of a prison between her and health care. From the greatest center of health care probably in the world from New York to Fort Worth, Texas and we know cancer is spreading. And as our daughter the doctor says, cancer has to be nipped in the bud. But first it has to go through regulations of Fort Worth Texas -- not knowing when you go to the hospital, not knowing who's going to be there. So we're working on that.
Lynne's now served over 38 months in prison. Her original sentence was 28 months. Stephen Lendman (San Franciso Bay View) explains, "She requested transfer to a New York hospital. She's been successfully treated there before. She was denied." Brenda Ryan (Workers World) reports, "The re-emergence of Stewart's cancer was first detected in a PET scan. [Lynn and Ralph's daughter Dr. Zenobia] Brown noted that it took two months from the time of the scan until Stewart was able to see a doctor. Stewart's hands and feet are shackled every time she goes to the hospital. While there she is cruelly shackled to a bedpost by her ankle and wrist." This is ridiculous. She's served the original sentence. She's now dealing with cancer again. She needs to focus on her treatment. She cannot do that behind bars. She is a 73-year-old woman who has never been a threat to herself or others, she needs a medical release right now. The US Justice Dept allows what is known as a "compassionate release" and it includes criteria such as "extraordinary or compelling circumstances which could not reasonably have been foreseen by the court at the time of sentencing." That would include the return of Lynne's cancer. There is no risk to the public in Lynne being released under a "compassionate release." It is in Lynne's best interest for her to be released, it is in the government's best interest to release her. On the latter, as University of California San Francisco's Dr. Brie Williams pointed out, "Current compassionate release guidelines are failing to identify seriously ill prisoners who no longer pose a threat to society, placing huge financial burdens on state budgets and contributing to the national crisis of prison overcrowding."