[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:Â AnÂ Update
On Thursday, August 2, 2007, the public learned thatÂ Jamil Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, no longer was in the custody ofÂ the State of Georgia; he hadÂ been moved, without notification to his attorneys or family members, from theÂ Georgia State Prison at Reidsville, Georgia into the custody of theÂ Federal Bureau of Prisons.Â Information provided to the press indicated that Mr. Al-Amin was moved toÂ Oklahoma City and then within a day to the ADMAXÂ federal prison in Florence,Â Colorado.Â It was only on August 15, 2007 that heÂ was able to inform his attorneys that he was moved from Reidsville State PrisonÂ to the Atlanta Medical Center, in Atlanta, for two days of exploratory tests forÂ chest pains.Â He then was moved toÂ Georgiaâ€™s Jackson StateÂ Prison before Georgia handed him over to theÂ Federal Bureau of Prisons.Â Once inÂ federal custody, Mr. Al-Amin was moved to OklahomaÂ City and then moved to his final destinationâ€”the â€œSupermaxâ€ federalÂ prison in Florence,Â Colorado, to be held in 23-hourÂ lockdown.
Mr. Al-Amin has three legal actions pending.Â The transfer to federal custody in aÂ facility over 1,400 miles away removes him from the Georgia areaÂ where family and friends would be able to visit on a regular basis.Â The move continues to isolate him fromÂ other inmates and the opportunity to worship with others, and it further imposesÂ harsh conditions which Mr. Al-Amin challenged while incarcerated in theÂ Georgia prison system.
Attorneys questioned the Georgia Department ofÂ Corrections as to the reason for Mr. Al-Aminâ€™s transfer to federal custody, evenÂ though he has not been charged or convicted of a federal crime.Â Devon Orland, Department of Law, StateÂ of Georgia, responded:â€œThe decision to transfer Mr. Al-Amin was made in conjunction withÂ the federal government and was based upon legitimate security concerns.Â As for the specific events that led to his transfer I am not atÂ liberty to discuss those but can tell you that there were legitimate securityÂ concerns. Neither I, nor anyone with the Department of CorrectionsÂ has control over where Mr. Al-Amin will be housed within the federalÂ system.Â He will be subject toÂ the same rules for transfer as any other prisoner within thatÂ system and you will need to check with them as to his current status,Â likelihood of his being housed within Georgia and rules regarding attorneyÂ contact and legal mail.Â Mr.Â Al-Amin is in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons but isÂ under a State of Georgia prison sentence so â€œresponsibilityâ€ is hard to define outÂ of context. The Bureau of Prisons is responsible for the care and incarcerationÂ of Mr. Al-Amin if thatÂ is the question you are askingâ€¦â€
HabeasÂ Corpus:Â Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin v. HughÂ Smith. On November 14, 2005, counsel for Mr. Al-Amin filed aÂ Habeas Corpus in the Superior Court of Tattnall County, State of Georgia.Â The habeas corpus action cited 14Â grounds for reversal of Mr. Al-Aminâ€™s conviction and sentence of life withoutÂ parole. Grounds presented includedÂ ineffective assistance of counsel based on the failure of trial counsel to:Â request a change of venue due to negative publicity; permit Mr. Al-Amin toÂ testify in his own defense; investigate the confession of an individual;Â challenge the issue of the prosecution striking all persons from the jury whoÂ indicated an affiliation to Muslims; failure of the prosecution to provideÂ discovery to the defense; inappropriate statements made by the prosecutionÂ regarding the failure of Mr. Al-Amin to testify, and his courtroom conduct byÂ not standing for the jury as members entered the courtroom. Other grounds included error on the part of the judge byÂ denying Mr. Al-Amin the right to counsel of his choice by eliminating all butÂ one of his four trial lawyers from participating in voir dire of the jury; theÂ opportunity to present favorable evidence and testimony; and the opportunity toÂ raise prior misconduct of an FBI agent.
The habeas also challenges the government sponsored oathÂ taken by the grand and petit jurors and witnesses which resulted in a conflictÂ between religious practices and state function in violation of the EstablishmentÂ Clause and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.Â Counsel also addressed the issue ofÂ violation of the 6th and 14th Amendments based on juryÂ selection procedures. Attorneys and investigators worked during 2006 toÂ identify witnesses and obtain documents to present during a scheduled FebruaryÂ 27, 2007 habeas hearing.Â Â TheÂ hearing was held and attorneys currently continue to take depositions and toÂ supplement the habeas brief before the judge assigned to the case renders aÂ decision.Â The attorneys receivedÂ the habeas hearing transcript and trial record free of charge after the judgeÂ approved pauper status requested by Mr. Al-Amin.Â After depositions are taken andÂ presented to the Court, the judge is expected to make a decision whether Mr.Â Al-Amin is entitled to a new trial based on evidence presented.
From a cell at the Florence, Colorado ADMAX federal prison, Mr. Al-AminÂ continues to challenge the State of Georgiaâ€™s prison system through the filing of two Â§ 1983 actions.
Opening LegalÂ Mail: Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin v. HughÂ Smith and Sanchez-Martin: This action was filed to challenge the warden and staffÂ of the GeorgiaÂ State Prison at Reidsville for opening legal mail outsideÂ of Mr. Al-Aminâ€™s presence sent from Attorney Karima Al-Amin.Â In November 2004, the Department ofÂ Corrections ruled that Reidsville violated standard operating procedures byÂ opening mail clearly marked â€œlegalâ€ from Mr. Al-Aminâ€™s wife who is an attorneyÂ licensed to practice law in Georgia.Â Opening legal mail outside of an inmateâ€™s presence is a First AmendmentÂ violation as well as a violation of the attorney-client privilege. The District Court ruled that GeorgiaÂ continued to open Mr. Al-Aminâ€™s legalÂ mail from Attorney Karima Al-Amin in violation of itsÂ standard operating procedures.Â TheÂ State of Georgia appealed the decision to theÂ 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Court appointed counsel fromÂ the law firm of Kilpatrick Stockton, LLP, to argue Mr. Al-Aminâ€™s case.Â Argument was held on September 20, 2007Â resulting in the 11th Circuit ruling, on January 7, 2008, that theÂ Reidsville warden and staff violated Mr. Al-Aminâ€™s First Amendment rights byÂ opening legal mail from Attorney Karima Al-Amin outside of his presence.Â The State appealed to theÂ 11th Circuit for a rehearing, and the Court denied the appeal.Â The State subsequently filed its writ toÂ the U.S. Supreme Court, which was denied on October 6, 2008.Â The pro bono attorneys from KilpatrickÂ Stockton are preparing for trial and will explore challenging the PrisonÂ Litigation Reform Act, which prevents Mr. Al-Amin from receiving punitiveÂ damages.Â Attorneys further areÂ exploring filing a separate action challenging Reidsvilleâ€™s effort to infringeÂ on Mr. Al-Aminâ€™s right to practice his religion while incarcerated.Â This action would be a RLUIPA claim.
RetaliationÂ Lawsuit: This action addressed Reidsvilleâ€™s past 23-hour lockdownÂ confinement of Mr. Al-Amin, retaliatory actions, and the transfer to the ADMAXÂ federal prison in Florence,Â Colorado.Â The State of GeorgiaÂ transferred Mr. Al-Amin based on a March 1990 Agreement between the GeorgiaÂ Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to house a stateÂ inmate upon request.
This transfer more than 1,400 milesÂ from his legal counsel at a time when lawsuits are pending in Georgia took place without notification to Mr. Al-Aminâ€™s attorneys or family members,Â even though his habeas and lawsuits were pending.Â The retaliation lawsuit also addressedÂ efforts to prevent Mr. Al-Amin from freely exercising his right to practice hisÂ religion in the Georgia prison system. A new retaliation lawsuit will be filed now that allÂ administrative remedies have been exhausted.Â The new legal action will present theÂ same challenges as the previous retaliation lawsuit.
Although the Federal Bureau of PrisonsÂ maintains it will return Mr. Al-Amin to Georgia upon Georgiaâ€™s request, Georgia isÂ refusing to seek his return.Â We see theÂ transfer out of the State of Georgia to a federal institution that operates aÂ behavior modification program is seen as a punitive action on the part of theÂ government and welcome assistance to petition for a changeÂ 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