Friday, July 9, 2010

25 Years Later, No Criminal Charges in MOVE Bombing

A Philadelphia Judge ruled that criminal charges can not be filed against ex-city officials and police involved in the bombing of the MOVE (a radical Black activist collective) residence that killed 11 residents including 5 children.  This is the Philadelphia Inquirer story by Julie Shaw on the ruling:

"The fight continues, say supporters of MOVE.  Twenty-five years after the police dropped a bomb on the MOVE house in West Philadelphia, killing 11 people, including five children, and destroying 61 homes, MOVE members and supporters are still seeking murder charges against the city officials and cops who played a role in what happened on May 13, 1985.

Ramona Africa, (pic) the only adult survivor of the Osage Avenue bombing, filed 11 private criminal complaints earlier this year with the District Attorney's Office, asking that 11 people who were city officials or cops at the time of the bombing be arrested on murder charges.

The D.A.'s office, in an April 6 letter, said it 'respectfully disapproved' the requests.

Africa, through two attorneys, then brought her private criminal complaints before Common Pleas Judge Frank Palumbo at a motions hearing yesterday.  After hearing arguments from both sides, Palumbo denied the requests to issue murder warrants against former Mayor Wilson Goode, former Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor, the officers who made or dropped the bomb and other former city officials and cops.

Leon Williams, representing Africa, argued yesterday that the court should conduct a de novo review of the case and issue murder warrants against the 11 former city officials and cops. He said D.A. Seth Williams undertook no new investigation before his office rejected the private criminal complaints. Williams' co-counsel, Michael Coard, said there is 'no statute of limitations on murder' and contended that prosecutors could make out a murder case against the former officials and cops.

Assistant District Attorney William James said his office as a matter of policy does not accept private criminal complaints in matters that allege felonies.  He said that the case had been 'fully and completely investigated' by a grand jury decades ago and that the grand jury had rejected criminal charges against city officials and police at the time. He also told the judge that it is a legitimate policy decision for the D.A.'s office to save scarce resources by not investigating a matter again.

Africa, 55, accompanied in court by about 40 supporters, said afterward that she would appeal the judge's decision to Pennsylvania Superior Court. Of the judge's ruling, she said, 'It wasn't shocking or unexpected.'  Asked why she waited 25 years to file the private criminal complaints, she said she has 'been busy' with parole issues of other MOVE members and working to gain international and national support for the group. She said the timing had nothing to do with the fact that a new district attorney took office in January.

About a dozen police officers showed up at the hearing and stood on one side of the courtroom."

The picture to the right is the LIFE Magazine aerial photograph of the damage done to the West Philadelphia residences by the police bombing of the MOVE residence.  This is one of those unbelievable examples of excessive use of force that should be forever burned in our collective consciousness.  Why do we do these things to ourselves, what part of our social ego requires incinerating children and other innocent bystanders to make a point about the rule of law?

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