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Black Revolutionary Scientific Worker Jailed Without Bail
by David Kotelchuck
In December, following a four-month effort, Computer People for Peace (CPP) succeeded in raising $50,000 bail for Clark Squire, computer programmer and co-defendant in the New York Panther conspiracy trial. When the New York-based group (see Science for the People, Vol.II, No.2, August 1970, p.17) presented the money in court, Judge John Murtagh first doubled the bail to $100,000, overruling a May 1969 court decision setting it at $50,000.
Then the judge went on, “Whatever his bail was, it doesn’t matter, it’s now NO BAIL.” Because of “information in possession of the court·” relating “not only to the defendant Squire but to all the defendants present,” the judge revoked bail for the remainder of the trial for nine defendants, who have been in jail for 22 months! However, the judge said he would consider reinstating the bail if the defendants and their lawyers “behave”. (Reported in The New York Times, Dec.29,1970).
CPP called a protest demonstration the next day in front of the courthouse, in which about 100 people participated. The steering committee then released a statement saying, “What is the meaning of democratic process when even after the money for bail is raised the bail is revoked? People are told to play by the rules, and when they do the ‘rules are changed.” CPP also protested the use of bail as blackmail, not only against the defendants, but against defense counsel for its handling of the trial. Further actions by the group are being planned.
Clark Squire, since graduating from Prairie View (Texas) College in 1956, worked first for NASA, then recently for a number of private computer companies in New York City. In November 1968 he joined the newly-formed Harlem branch of the Black Panther Party and soon became the branch’s Lieutenant for Finance. Soon after he was visited by the FBI and offered money to become an informer. He refused and the harassment began. The following is an account that Squire gave in the trade journal Computers and Automation, Nov.1970:
” ‘I had been in the party for less than three months when the reign of terror began.’ On Jan. 18, 1969, seven police ‘kicked in my door at 5:30 in the morning, guns drawn and cocked, stuck them to my head, pinned me against the wall and commenced to beat me almost into unconsciousness.’ The night before a car rented by Squire’s company and used by him to commute to his job in New Jersey was involved in a shootout with the police. Squire was not in the car, but he was arrested as part of an alleged conspiracy, involving those in the car, to use high-powered rifles to kill policemen. Squire was held in jail for two weeks before the charge was dismissed for lack of evidence. But Squire did not get out of jail. After the charge was dismissed, but before he could leave the courtroom, Squire was arrested on a charge of armed robbery of a subway change booth. As Squire noted, ‘This was really absurd, because at that time my annual salary was exceeding $17,000 a year.’ Furthermore, Squire’s employer said that Squire was at work at the time the robbery occurred. Nevertheless, Squire was held in jail for an additional two weeks before being released on $5,000 bail. The robbery charge is still pending. ”
Squire returned to his computer job, as well as his Panther activities, until the pre-dawn hours of April 2, 1969, when he and 20 other New York Panther leaders were arrested. They were charged with conspiracy to blow up railroad tracks, department stores, police stations, and the Bronx Botanical Gardens (in that order), as well as attempted murder of two policemen and arson in the bombing of two police stations and a Board of Education building. Bail was set at $100,000 per person.
This bail, so enormous that it is essentially no bail at all, belies the government’s assertion that this is just another criminal case. In a so called normal criminal case, defendants with no previous criminal record or of middle and upper-class background (!) are given only such bail as is necessary to guarantee their appearance in court. Here, despite the variety of personal circumstances and criminal charges, reduced bail was not set for any defendant. This denial of reasonable bail has become customary recently in political cases. If viewed from a political context such actions are not unreasonable, they are quite understandable, to be expected, and utterly unjust. They are simply a tactic used by the elite of a technically advanced society to remove from the public arena those political opponents who bring into question the structure by which the elite rule.
One peculiarity of this tactic, noteworthy in the United States, is the racism with which it is compounded. In a number of political cases throughout the country, black radicals have had much higher bail set than whites for the same charges. For example, in New York city two white radicals accused at about the same time as the Panthers of bombing buildings were released on $25,000 bail, a huge sum but much less than that for the Panthers. Also in 1966 a New York judge granted $20,000 bail to to a group of white Minute Men charged with conspiracy to murder 260 civil rights workers.
Virtually all legal efforts to reduce the Panther bail have failed. Intensive drives in New York city to raise the $100,000 bail for various individuals have succeeded in freeing three prisoners. Also in May, 1969 a Queens judge lowered the bail of two defendants in his jurisdiction, Squire and Michael Tabor, to $50,000. Money was raised for Tabor and he is now out of prison. As noted before, this ruling was ignored in Squire’s case, so he and eight other defendants remain in jail for their twenty second month.
In this they share the lot of many other prisoners, poor, mostly black and Puerto Rican, who cannot make bail. Without bail a prisoner cannot adequately gather witnesses and evidence which are crucial for the defense, or counteract prejudicial pretrial publicity.
For those who cannot raise bail. the notion of a trial whose purpose is to determine guilt or innocence has always been a liberal myth. The purpose of such a trial, as in the Panther case, is to determine how long a sentence the prisoner must serve. If the verdict is innocent the defendant serves six months to three years, depending on the delay in getting to trial. If the verdict is guilty, a further jail sentence is added to that already served.
This has led many to understand what Clark Squire said in a recent letter to the CPP, “If there is one lesson learned that stands above all others in being a Panther, it is that, it is inherently right for a people to revolt against a train of injustices. Once you have taken that step to scratch the surface, unveiling a massive hulk of hypocrisy, deceit and rot, you will cease to wonder how you got started, but why you waited so long!”