Being involved in the civil rights movement in the ‘South’, in the 1960s, means that you would know and/or hear about the great H. Rap Brown (now known as Jamil Al-Amin) in his early organizing work for justice, such as in Alabama. This was prior to his remarkable activism north of the Mason Dixon line. Yes, Brown and others were challenging Alabama’s Governor George Wallace and the prevailing white supremacy that denied Blacks virtually everything in terms of what is referred to as democratic rights. The unjust and racist system was entrenched in the South and in the country as a whole, resulting in H. Rap Brown, along with his Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) colleagues, challenging it all.
The activism in the Brown family is and remains remarkable. H. Rap Brown’s older brother, the late Ed Brown, was also engaged in every conceivable movement for justice across the South. Originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Ed was ultimately living in Atlanta where he served as the head of the Voter Education Project and other leadership roles. Throughout his on-going career, wherever there was an issue of injustice to be addressed, Ed Brown was there on the front lines, that included, of course, the anti-apartheid movement. He was a very dear friend of mine.
H. Rap Brown ultimately took the name of Jamil Al-Amin and, as a Muslim leader, was the influential Imam in Atlanta’s West End where he consistently attempted, among other missions, to end the drug invasion in the West End community. Then, in 2000, an Atlanta policeman was killed and Al-Amin was accused of this crime, yet all the indications are that he was not the killer. In fact, as from the ‘Fact Sheet’ below, “Evidence that an individual, Otis Jackson, confessed to be the shooter on the evening of March 16, 2000, was never introduced at trial by the prosecution or defense-Otis Jackson continues to maintain that he was the assailant.”
When Jamil Al-Amin was first in prison in Atlanta for this alleged crime, I visited him briefly, along with Alabama attorney J.L. Chestnut who had been defending Al-Amin while he was in Alabama just after the killing of the Atlanta policeman.
During the 2002 trial, that ended in the conviction of Jamil Al-Amin, we consistently held radio shows on WRFG-Atlanta, along with Al-Amin’s brother Ed Brown, regarding updates of the trial and many of us, including myself, were observers in the courtroom.
Al-Amin is now in the United States Prison (USP) in Tucson, Arizona where he is housed in the general population. “He continues to declare his innocence, and supporters are advocating for his return to a Georgia facility where he will be able to assist his legal team in appealing his conviction.”
The following ‘Jamil Al-Amin Series’ will provide updates on his case and his remarkable history.
FACT SHEET ON THE CASE OF
JAMIL ABDULLAH AL-AMIN
WHO IS JAMIL AL-AMIN?
Imam Jamil Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, was sentenced to life without parole in the Georgia prison system. He became involved in the civil/human rights movement primarily in the southern part of the United States as early as 1962. As a result of his participation, speech-making, and subsequent election as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), in May 1967, the United States government targeted him in its illegal surveillance and entrapment programs, specifically COINTELPRO, initiated by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.
During his earlier years, the United States government and its state and local branches charged and imprisoned him for counseling to arson, inciting to arson and riot, federal fire arms violations, and bond violations. These charges were fabricated and unfounded. By 1968 while under house arrest, U.S. Congress members, and governors were calling for law enforcement to arrest him, and “slam the doors” of the prisons behind him. On April 11, 1968, the “Rap Brown” Federal Anti-Riot Act passed as an amendment to a fair housing law. This law against dissent made it illegal to travel from one state to another, write a letter, make a telephone call, or speak n radio or televeiion with the “intent” to encourage any person to participate in a riot. By 1970, Imam Jamil was placed on the FBl’s “10 Most Wanted List,” simply for failing to appear for trial on the fabricated ‘inciting to arson and riot’ charges.
From 1971 until 1976, Imam Jamil was imprisoned in the State of New York on charges related to eradicating drug activity in African American communities. Upon his release, he relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, where he immediately began to establish and organize a Muslim community. He devoted years to traveling throughout the United States, the Sudan, Pakistan, India, the West Indies, and Saudi Arabia. He also served on boards of major Islamic organizations with a national and international agenda. After 24 years, he was arrested on March 20, 2000, and charged with the death of one and the assault of another Fulton County Georgia Sheriff’s deputy.
FACT SHEET ON THE CASE OF
JAMIL ABDULLAH AL-AMIN
The Case of Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin
In January 2002, the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia summoned a jury pool of approximately 1500 residents of the county to be considered to serve as jurors in the case against Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. Charged with 13 counts, including the murder of one Fulton County sheriff’s deputy and the wounding of another deputy on the evening of March 16, 2000, Imam Jamil retained a team of four attorneys to present his defense. The jury of nine African Americans, two Caucasians, and one Hispanic took less than 10 hours to reach its verdict in the three-week trial. The sentencing phase began on March 11, 2002, with relatives of the deputies reading victim impact statements. For three days, Imam Jamil’s defense team called 20 character witnesses. On March 14, 2002, the same jury that found Imam Jamil guilty of all 13 counts of the indictment, pronounced the sentence of life without the possibility of parole on the murder and felony murder counts. In addition, the presiding judge imposed an additional 30 years to the sentence as punishment on the remaining 11 counts.
The jury declined to pronounce the death penalty. Imam Jamil immediately was moved to Georgia’s maximum security state prison in Reidsville, Georgia. He remained in Reidsville in 23-hour involuntary lock-down until Georgia turned him over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. On August 1, 2007, with no federal charges or convictions, Imam Jamil was moved to the Supermax ADMAX USP in Florence, Colorado.
As a Georgia state prisoner, Imam Jamil was transferred into federal custody based on a March 1990 Agreement between Georgia and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) to house an inmate for the state, Georgia turned Imam Jamil over to the FBOP after determining that Muslin Georgie inmates wanted him to serve as the Imam for all Georgia state inmates. The Department of Corrections, along with the FBI, maintained that this “solidarity movement” would be a “threat” to the security of the Georgia prison system. With the prompting of the FBI, Georgia conceded to the transfer, although Georgia maintained that it was not recommending any particular prison for Imam Jamil to be held.
Imam Jamil remained at the Florence ADX in solitary conﬁnement for seven years. His status at Florence as a state prisoner prevented him from participating in the institution’s step-down program. As a result, he remained in limbo while other federal inmates had the capability to work their way out of solitary confinement to another federal institution.
APPEALING THE CONVICTION
Imam Jamil continues to challenge his Georgia conviction. There is consensus that Imam Jaml was convicted well before the jury announced its verdict. Contradictions highlighted during the trial and comments made by the prosecution smacked at First Amendment rights. Moreover, Imam Jamil’s history as a civil/human rights leader at the time of the trial spanned nearly 35 years of governmental surveillance and harassment. Additionally, before the trial ended, the trial judge ruled that the Imam’s initial May 31, 1999 stop, search, and arrest by the Cobb County police officer indeed was an illegal and unjustified stop.
Supporters continue to raise the following issues that surfaced during the trial:
* Prosecution almost systematically eliminated older African American women who could have been expected to have some knowledge of the FBl’s COINTELPRO program, which targeted African American leaders.
* Deputies stated that one or even both deputies had shot the assailant.
* The surviving deputy was emphatic when describing the assailant as having grey eyes – Imam’s eyes are brown.
* The crime scene contained blood on the street and in a neighboring abandoned house, however the blood was discounted.
* The deputies offered conflicting accounts of the description of the assailant and clothing worn – the description did not match the Imam.
* The testimony of 911 tapes confirming reports of a wounded person in the area of the Imam’s store on the night of the shooting was not admitted into evidence.
* The Imam’s fingerprints were not found on any firearm associated with the crime.
* Pieces of evidence relating to the sheriff’s vehicle were either lost or destroyed prior to court proceedings.
* FBI agent Ron Campbell who admitted to kicking and spitting on the Imam during the White Hall, Alabama arrest, escaped total scrutiny as to his role in the case; and local residents refuted the account of the U.S. Marshals who claimed the lmam shot at them in White Hall.
* Evidence that an individual, Otis Jackson, confessed to be the shooter on the evening of March 16, 2000, was never introduced at trial by the prosecution or defense-Otis Jackson continues to maintain that he was the assailant.
Imam Jamil’s federal habeas addresses discrepancies as well as constitutional errors that occurred during the Georgia trial that resulted in his conviction. His federal appeal will continue, during 2018, before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, asserting among other issues that the prosecutor’s closing argument and actions were not “harmless error,” therefore, the conviction should be overturned.
In 2013, lmam Jamil became ill with a dental problem that ultimately caused two abscesses that the Florence FBOP ADX medical staff ignored. As a result of a major campaign by family members, human rights activists, organizations, supporters and ultimately Congressional reps, the Imam received tests that indicated the presence of a stage of multiple myeloma, cancer of the plasma cells, which required a bone marrow biopsy. After further public pressure urging the FBOP to stop the “execution by medical neglect” of the Imam, he was moved on July 15, 2014, from the Florence supermax prison to the federal Butner Medical Center, in North Carolina.
On July 23, 2014, at the Butner FMC, Imam Jamil received medical results that he had smoldering myeloma, an intermediate pre-cursor stage of multiple myeloma, which needed to be monitored. He was moved from Butner, in October 2014, to the USP Canaan federal prison, in Waymart, PA, where he was placed in general population after 14 years of being subjected to administrative and solitary confinement.
Supporters continue to urge the FBOP to monitor the Imam’s medical condition and to provide quality treatment at a facility in a warmer climate, Imam Jamil subsequently was moved, in December 2015, from Waymart to the USP, in Tucson, Arizona where he is housed in general population. He continues to declare his innocence, and supporters are advocating for his return to a Georgia facility where he will be able to assist his legal team in appealing his conviction.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: