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August 12, 1975 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1975-08-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Attica inmates prone on
prison yard awaiting skin
search during the 1971 up-
rising: Prisoners nationwide
are beginning to express
their dissatisfaction w it h
prevailing jail conditions, in-
cluding daily humiliation,
squalid living quarters, and
sometimes false accusations
made by inmate informers,
or "snitches".

The Michigan Daily
Edited and managed by Students at the
University of Michigan
Tuesday, August 12, 1975
News Phone: 764-0552
Withrends like Indira ...
T1HE UNITED STATES government should reassess its
relations with Indira Gandhi's Indian regime in light
of that nation's worst political crisis in its two and, a
half decades of independence.
Prime Minister Gandhi, once lauded as the inspira-
tional and diplomatic leader of the world's largest demo-
cratic nation has shrouded herself in a cloak of defiance
and resorted to the tactics of totalitarianism in lashing
back at criticism in the wake of her conviction for elec-
tion fraud.
The turmoil now throttling the upper echelons of
Indian government compares in intensity and implica-
tion with the American domestic crisis climaxed by
Richard Nixon's resignation a year ago.
In the Indian situation, however, though the mis-
deeds at its core were at the least as dubious and in-
defensible as the Watergate crimes, an unprecedented
crisis in confidence may well be weathered with no
change in the nation's highest office. Mrs. Gandhi has
exhibited an unabashed willingness to fight fire with,
fire, to defend against the righteous outcries of her con-
stituents by systematically suppressing the nation's media
and boldly convincing the Indian parliament to pass a
law which retoactively rendered Gandhi's fraudulent
activities legal.
THE UNITED STATES has no right to mettle directly in
the domestic affairs of other countries. Even if it
could, judging from recent trends, the Ford/Kissinger
axis would intervene just long e n o u g h to decorate
Gandhi for displaying courage in the face of criticism
and leave it to that. What the U.S. legislature can do,
however, is inform Prime Minister Gandhi that, until
the full trappings of democracy are -restored to her
people, our primary concern will be the survival of the
Indian people, but not the sustenance of a corrupt and
undeserving regime.
Business Staff
Business Manager
PETER CAPLAN............................Classied Manager
SETH FRIEDMAN.................................... Sales Manager
DAVE PIONTKOWSKY........ ............... Advertising Manager
CASSIE ST. CLAIR ................... . ........ Circulation Manager
STAFF: Nina Edwards, Anna Kwok
gALES: Colby Bennett, Cher Bledsoe, Dan Blugerman, Sylvia Calhoun,
Jeff Milgrom
Sports Staff
Sports Editor
JON CHAVEZ ......... . . . . . ..Night Editor
AL HRAPSKY...........Night Editor
EICH LERNER............ ...... . .........Night Editor
BILL CRANE ......................Contributing Editor.

time S
rTHE LOWEST form of life in
- any prison, in the opinion
of inmates, is the snitch. He's
the convict who will inform on
his fellow prisoners, truthfully
or falsely, to gain some ad-
Now, so obscure case of two
California prisoners is opening
up the widely rumored practice
of state d e a 1 s with prison
snitches for testimony in prison
The case begins with Herman
Herman Johnson had a big
snitch jacket-a reputation for
squealing. He was righteously
hated in the California prison
system, and the word was pass.
ed on the grapevine from joint
to joint.
That his testimony against his
fellow prisoners was not always
accurate was fairly well estab-
lished when he volunteered as
a witness against the Soledad
Brothers in 19701-the first case
that gained nationwide attention
for the prison movement.
Because if was so clearly
evidentthat he was lying, the
c a s e collapsed and charges
against four of the defendants
were dismissed.
So it was not too surprising
when on July 19, 1971, he was
stabbed in the back at high
noon in the upper yard at ugly
old San Quentin, the big daddy
of California's maximum se-
curity prisons. Maybe Herman
had got the word too, because
he told the investigators at the
time that he could not identify
his assailants.
TWO DAYS later, asEerman
Johnson lay in his bed in the
prison hospital behind a guard-
ed steel door, whoever it was
that bore him umbrage sneaked
into the dead end corridor and
by multiple knife thrusts killed
the correctional officer who was
guarding him from just such an
Leon Davis was the first cor-
rectional officer to be killed in
San Quentin since 1952. Three
more were killed exactly one
month later along with George
Jackson and two other pris-
Everyone agrees that whoever
attacked Johnson in the yard
two days earlier had come back
to complete the botched up job
hut was frightened off before
havinga chance to take Davis'
keys and open the cell door to
get at Herman.
After a brief investigation,
two prisoners were indicted for
murdering Officer Davis. They
were Earl Gibson and Larry
Justice-both black, both 31, both
from Los Angeles, both in the

in prison: Snitch in
paves ime in jail
prison hospital on the day of That appeal has become a
the murder, both in the big minor cause celebre in legal
yard on the 19th when Herman circles as a test case for chal-
y.a onsthed19thlenging alleged manipulation of
J. was stabbed. witnesses by the state to induce

GIBSON WAS in the hospital
as a patient with a back injury.
Justice was at his regular job
in charge of the linen room.
Far from political types, both
were considered 'Model prison-
ers. They had been fingered by
Herman Johnson who bore a
grudge against Gibson from a
fight they'd had at Soledad.
After the explosive events one
month later, pressure was heavy
to produce therkillers of the
guards a a d restore morale
among prison personnel.
Gibson and Justice were con-
victed by a jury on the testi-
mony of Johnson and two other
known snitches -Charles John-
son, who had been denied pa-
role just two weeks before the
killing, and Ivan Kranzelic, im-
prisoned for killing his mother.
The defense alleged that all
three hadebeen given or prom-
ised early parole for testifying
for the state against Justice and
Not one of the civilian nurses
or doctors, nor any members of
the prisoner staff who were in
the hospital at the time of the
killing identified either Justice
or Gibson as the killers. Three
nurses who knew Justice said
they saw three men running
from the crime scene and that
none was Justice. A fourth
nurse who knew Gibson said he
was not among those she saw
running from the scene.
THE MURDER weapon, a
b i o o d y shank (prison - made
knife) was found with finger-
prints that were never identi-
fied but that were good enough,
in spite of some smearing, to
exclude either suspect as the
handler. There were also bloody
prints on the windowpane that
have never been identified.
Prison witnesses who testify
for the defense are always
aware thaththey may be taking
a risk with their own well-be-
ing, yet all the prisoner wit-
nesses, except the two Johnsons
and Kranzelic, placed Justice
and Gibson on the fourth floor
of the hospital at the time of
the second floor killing.
After a lengthy trial in which
the prosecution charged that
Gibson had faked a back injury
to get into the hospital, the two
men were convicted and have
been held ever since in maxi-
mum security, sweating out
their appeal.

ON JULY 28, attorneys Mar-
vin Stender and Franklin Glenn
argued before a three-member
state appellate court that the
testimony of Johnson, Johnson
and Kranzelic was self-serving
and unreliable. Herman Johnson
had recently been denied parole,
but was immediately released
after testifying for the state.
Charles Johnson had been de-
nied parole for one year just
two weeks before testifying be-
fore the grand jury against Gib-
son. and Justice, but after his
appearance his parole date was
advanced several months. After
his release he was arrested five
times and convicted twice, but
his parole was never revoked.
Kranzelic had served only 18
months of his term and was not
eligible for parole, but after he
testified in the case he sued
the state Adult Authority for not
setting a parole date-promised
in return for his testimony.
Also at issue in the appeal is
misconduct of the trial jury.
After the conviction, the attor-
neys learned that the jury, con-
trary to the rigid rules of evi-
dence, had sent two of its mem-
bers to the library to research
blood types and the effects of
morphine on perception. These
matters concerned evidence that
had specifically been ruled in-
admissible by the trial judge.
IN DOING SO, the jury mem-
bers had deliberately ignored
the court's admonition to base
their conclusions and delibera-
tions solely on evidence pre-
sented in court and to refrain
from reading about or talking
about the trial to anyone.
A decision on the appeal may
be expected in six to 12 weeks:
Attorneys say the obscurity of
the case highlights the fact that
snitching-far from beingscon-
fined to highly-publicized-cases
of prison militants-is routine in
prison trials.
Alice Yarish is a reporter
for the San Francisco Ex-
aminer and a veteran ob-
server of criminal justice in
California. Copyright, Paci-
fic News Service, 1975.
Letters should be typed
and limited to 400 words.
The Daily reserves the
right to edit letters for
length and grammar.

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