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Paintings from Death Row

A Chicago gallery hosts an exhibit of paintings by Death Row inmate Mario Flores, as supporters maintain his innocence and press for his release
Subj: You wanna try?
Date: 10/17/2000 9:29:19 PM Central Daylight Time
From: Curtis5465
To: CAGeovanis

I can't get this accepted by the website. Do you wanna try?
The finely detailed, brightly colored oil paintings are highly realistic, yet there is a touch of magic about them. In some of the works it involves the subject matter - ancient Aztec artifacts, rites, and warriors - but it is also there in the landscapes and marketplace scenes. It is there in the portrait of Frida Kahlo in traditional dress looking sternly, questioningly at two doves, as if silently interrogating their symbolism. Perhaps their luminescence reflects the fact that these paintings, bursting with light and life, are the work of Mario Flores Urban, a man who has been in a dark and dreary cell on Illinois' Death Row for 15 years, sentenced to death for a murder which he and an increasing number of supporters insist he did not commit.

On October 14 about 75 of Flores's supporters marched to the ARC Gallery, where his painting are currently on exhibit, following a rally at a nearby park where they heard speakers including the vice president of SEIU Local 46, which Flores belonged to before his 1984 arrest, and a representative of Comite Exigimos Justicia.

The Comite, whose name translates "we demand justice," consists of relatives and supporters of more than a dozen Latino men arrested and convicted of murders by a small group of Area 5 detectives. In virtually all the cases no physical evidence linked the defendant to the crime, and witnesses against them were given deals or otherwise influenced or coerced. One of the cases taken up by the Comite, that of Angel Rodriguez, was reversed earlier this year when an appeals court ruled that prosecutors manipulated evidence and that witnesses against Rodriguez were not credible. Carrying hand-lettered signs with enlarged snapshots of their sons and brothers, Comite members call to mind the Mothers of the Disappeared who were icons of courageous resistance to the Argentinian junta of the 1970s and '80s. (See the Chicago Reporter at "www.chicagoreporter.com/2000/06-2000".)

In Mario Flores's case, no physical evidence links him to the Jan. 1, 1984 murder of Gilbert Perez for which he was convicted. The only witness to place him at the scene of the crime was a codefendant, who was later cleared of all charges in the killing. Another admitted participant later swore that Flores wasn't there. The state's account of Perez's killing - that Flores and the others picked him up and drove him away from a 2 a.m. car accident, and that they subsequently shot and robbed Perez - conflicts with police reports, confirmed by eyewitnesses (who were not heard at Flores's trial), that Perez walked away from the scene of the accident alone. Perez's body was still warm when it was discovered in the snow at 6:45 a.m., four hours after the state contends Flores shot him.

Flores's appeals were dismissed on technical grounds and a federal habeus corpus motion has been pending since 1994. The National Human Rights Commission of Mexico condemned the proceedings against Flores in a petition to the governor for clemency, citing among other things the failure of police to afford Flores his international treaty rights as a Mexican national to contact the consulate. The Mexican consulate recently stepped in to assist with Flores's effort to win a new trial.

The paintings of Mario Flores are on display at the Arc Gallery, 734 N. Milwaukee, through October 24. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 to 5. They can also be viewed on his website: "www.gallerymario.8m.com". For more information contact Comite Exigimos Justicia at 312.683-5292.
 
 

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