Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin: An Update

[When Jamil Al-Amin who had been transformed from the fiery proponent of violence into the man credited with cleaning up Atlanta’s crime-ridden West End by his conversion to Islam was arrested for “cop-killing” the Muslim community was stunned and suspicious of a frame-up. Recent shocking developments in the handling of his incarceration outlined by human rights activist Mauri Saalakhan below suggest that we must continue to press for the truth in this matter to emerge.]

Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin:  An  Update

On Thursday, August 2, 2007, the public learned that  Jamil Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, no longer was in the custody of  the State of Georgia; he had  been moved, without notification to his attorneys or family members, from the  Georgia State Prison at Reidsville, Georgia into the custody of the  Federal Bureau of Prisons.  Information provided to the press indicated that Mr. Al-Amin was moved to  Oklahoma City and then within a day to the ADMAX  federal prison in Florence,  Colorado.  It was only on August 15, 2007 that he  was able to inform his attorneys that he was moved from Reidsville State Prison  to the Atlanta Medical Center, in Atlanta, for two days of exploratory tests for  chest pains.  He then was moved to  Georgia’s Jackson State  Prison before Georgia handed him over to the  Federal Bureau of Prisons.  Once in  federal custody, Mr. Al-Amin was moved to Oklahoma  City and then moved to his final destination—the “Supermax” federal  prison in Florence,  Colorado, to be held in 23-hour  lockdown.

Mr. Al-Amin has three legal actions pending.  The transfer to federal custody in a  facility over 1,400 miles away removes him from the Georgia area  where family and friends would be able to visit on a regular basis.  The move continues to isolate him from  other inmates and the opportunity to worship with others, and it further imposes  harsh conditions which Mr. Al-Amin challenged while incarcerated in the  Georgia prison system.

Attorneys questioned the Georgia Department of  Corrections as to the reason for Mr. Al-Amin’s transfer to federal custody, even  though he has not been charged or convicted of a federal crime.  Devon Orland, Department of Law, State  of Georgia, responded:“The decision to transfer Mr. Al-Amin was made in conjunction with  the federal government and was based upon legitimate security concerns.  As for the specific events that led to his transfer I am not at  liberty to discuss those but can tell you that there were legitimate security  concerns. Neither I, nor anyone with the Department of Corrections  has control over where Mr. Al-Amin will be housed within the federal  system.  He will be subject to  the same rules for transfer as any other prisoner within that  system and you will need to check with them as to his current status,  likelihood of his being housed within Georgia and rules regarding attorney  contact and legal mail.  Mr.  Al-Amin is in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons but is  under a State of Georgia prison sentence so “responsibility” is hard to define out  of context. The Bureau of Prisons is responsible for the care and incarceration  of Mr. Al-Amin if that  is the question you are asking…”

Pending Litigation

Habeas  Corpus:  Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin v. Hugh  Smith. On November 14, 2005, counsel for Mr. Al-Amin filed a  Habeas Corpus in the Superior Court of Tattnall County, State of Georgia.  The habeas corpus action cited 14  grounds for reversal of Mr. Al-Amin’s conviction and sentence of life without  parole. Grounds presented included  ineffective assistance of counsel based on the failure of trial counsel to:  request a change of venue due to negative publicity; permit Mr. Al-Amin to  testify in his own defense; investigate the confession of an individual;  challenge the issue of the prosecution striking all persons from the jury who  indicated an affiliation to Muslims; failure of the prosecution to provide  discovery to the defense; inappropriate statements made by the prosecution  regarding the failure of Mr. Al-Amin to testify, and his courtroom conduct by  not standing for the jury as members entered the courtroom. Other grounds included error on the part of the judge by  denying Mr. Al-Amin the right to counsel of his choice by eliminating all but  one of his four trial lawyers from participating in voir dire of the jury; the  opportunity to present favorable evidence and testimony; and the opportunity to  raise prior misconduct of an FBI agent.

The habeas also challenges the government sponsored oath  taken by the grand and petit jurors and witnesses which resulted in a conflict  between religious practices and state function in violation of the Establishment  Clause and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Counsel also addressed the issue of  violation of the 6th and 14th Amendments based on jury  selection procedures. Attorneys and investigators worked during 2006 to  identify witnesses and obtain documents to present during a scheduled February  27, 2007 habeas hearing.   The  hearing was held and attorneys currently continue to take depositions and to  supplement the habeas brief before the judge assigned to the case renders a  decision.  The attorneys received  the habeas hearing transcript and trial record free of charge after the judge  approved pauper status requested by Mr. Al-Amin.  After depositions are taken and  presented to the Court, the judge is expected to make a decision whether Mr.  Al-Amin is entitled to a new trial based on evidence presented.

From a cell at the Florence, Colorado ADMAX federal prison, Mr. Al-Amin  continues to challenge the State of Georgia’s prison system through the filing of two § 1983 actions.

Opening Legal  Mail: Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin v. Hugh  Smith and Sanchez-Martin: This action was filed to challenge the warden and staff  of the Georgia  State Prison at Reidsville for opening legal mail outside  of Mr. Al-Amin’s presence sent from Attorney Karima Al-Amin.  In November 2004, the Department of  Corrections ruled that Reidsville violated standard operating procedures by  opening mail clearly marked “legal” from Mr. Al-Amin’s wife who is an attorney  licensed to practice law in Georgia.  Opening legal mail outside of an inmate’s presence is a First Amendment  violation as well as a violation of the attorney-client privilege. The District Court ruled that Georgia  continued to open Mr. Al-Amin’s legal  mail from Attorney Karima Al-Amin in violation of its  standard operating procedures.  The  State of Georgia appealed the decision to the  11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Court appointed counsel from  the law firm of Kilpatrick Stockton, LLP, to argue Mr. Al-Amin’s case.  Argument was held on September 20, 2007  resulting in the 11th Circuit ruling, on January 7, 2008, that the  Reidsville warden and staff violated Mr. Al-Amin’s First Amendment rights by  opening legal mail from Attorney Karima Al-Amin outside of his presence.  The State appealed to the  11th Circuit for a rehearing, and the Court denied the appeal.  The State subsequently filed its writ to  the U.S. Supreme Court, which was denied on October 6, 2008.  The pro bono attorneys from Kilpatrick  Stockton are preparing for trial and will explore challenging the Prison  Litigation Reform Act, which prevents Mr. Al-Amin from receiving punitive  damages.  Attorneys further are  exploring filing a separate action challenging Reidsville’s effort to infringe  on Mr. Al-Amin’s right to practice his religion while incarcerated.  This action would be a RLUIPA claim.

Retaliation  Lawsuit: This action addressed Reidsville’s past 23-hour lockdown  confinement of Mr. Al-Amin, retaliatory actions, and the transfer to the ADMAX  federal prison in Florence,  Colorado.  The State of Georgia  transferred Mr. Al-Amin based on a March 1990 Agreement between the Georgia  Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to house a state  inmate upon request.

This transfer more than 1,400 miles  from his legal counsel at a time when lawsuits are pending in Georgia took place without notification to Mr. Al-Amin’s attorneys or family members,  even though his habeas and lawsuits were pending.  The retaliation lawsuit also addressed  efforts to prevent Mr. Al-Amin from freely exercising his right to practice his  religion in the Georgia prison system. A new retaliation lawsuit will be filed now that all  administrative remedies have been exhausted.  The new legal action will present the  same challenges as the previous retaliation lawsuit.

Although the Federal Bureau of Prisons  maintains it will return Mr. Al-Amin to Georgia upon Georgia’s request, Georgia is  refusing to seek his return.  We see the  transfer out of the State of Georgia to a federal institution that operates a  behavior modification program is seen as a punitive action on the part of the  government and welcome assistance to petition for a change  to a neighboring federal facility or Georgia prison, and out of the SUPERMAX conditions.

El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan
Director of Operations
The Peace And Justice Foundation

2 Responses to “Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin: An Update”

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