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Leavenworth: Trial Ends In Victory
On Nov. 22nd, Armando Miramon was found not guilty by a jury in Wichita, Kansas of four counts of kidnapping and one count of assault on a guard. Miramon was the last of the Leavenworth Brothers to face charges in a court as a result of the July 31, 1973 rebellion which occurred in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary as prisoners united an rose up against the inhuman and repressive conditions within the prison. The trial of this Chicano brother began late October, as did the trial of Jesse Lopez. All kidnapping charges against Lopez were dropped earlier in the trial because the government had failed to produce any evidence to warrant the continuation of the trial. An earlier trial of four black Leavenworth Brothers charged with assault and inciting to riot ended with a conviction of the brothers by an all-white jury.
The charges that Miramon was acquitted of include the allegation that during the Leavenworth uprising, four guards were held hostage by William Hurst and Miramon. (Hurst was the only white brother to be indicted. He never made it to trial because he found hanged in his cell in the Wyandotte County Jail earlier this year). The 4 hostages were released unharmed after Leavenworth's warden agreed to meet with a prisoner grievance committee and after Warden Daggett promised that there would be no reprisals.
This trial in Wichita was heard by an all-white jury composed of 7 women and 5 men. These jurors listened to testimony from a psychiatrist stating that on July 31st, Miramon was suffering from "sensory deprivation psychosis," a condition Miramon developed as a result of spending many months in the "hole" of Leavenworth. These men and women also sat through several weeks of testimony concerning the conditions within Leavenworth. It was these conditions that led to the taking of hostages as the only means left to the prisoners struggling against the brutality of their lives.
When the jury returned a verdict of not guilty, many of them broke into tears and each of them stood to shake the hand of Miramon. As Miramon's attorney said, "The jury told us point blank that if they had not been presented with evidence of the inhuman prison conditions and the types of behavior which the conditions cause, for acquittal." Because of this, the verdict of this jury can mean only one thing a re-affirmation of the right to rebel against oppression. The repressive and exploitive conditions of prisons in general are under attack and, in essence, a jury in Wichita has just passed judgment on that system. They have decided that it was the conditions inside Leavenworth that are responsible for the rebellion of last year. Because of this, the people forced to live under those conditions had the right to rise up and make their demands known in the best and only way open to them. The outcome of this trial will have an effect that will penetrate the entire prison system and the movement of prisoners struggling against it. But even more that this, the victory in Wichita is a victory for all people fighting their oppression. Though bars may divide us, the struggles going on behind prison walls belong to us all.