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Indiana death row prisoner fights racist jury system

Come to Indianapolis on May 2nd to support an Indiana death row inmate's struggle against the systematic exclusion of African Americans from juries that denies African American defendants the equal protection of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

For years the Allen County, Indiana court system has been systematically excluding people of Afrikan descent from the jury pool. This means that many people of color are tried and sentenced by all white juries.

This racist practice has been illegal in the U.S. since the Supreme Court's decision in Norris v. Alabama, 1935. Progressive activists had brought attention to the practice of excluding people of color from juries during the infamous Scottsboro Boys case. They forced the Supreme Court to endorse to a more wide-reaching, interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of "equal protection under the law" and of "due process of law" to include a requirement that no race or ethnic group may be excluded from juries. The Supreme Court held that the systematic exclusion of African Americans from service on the grand jury and trial jury denied African American defendants in the state courts of Alabama the equal protection of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

However, this did not deter the racist Indiana court system from continuing the practice, and then covering it up when they were caught.

Now one victim is fighting a death sentence imposed by an all white jury. He needs your support when his legal team, from People's Law Office in Chicago, argue before the Indiana Supreme Court (200 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, Indiana) on Thursday, May 2nd at 10:40am.

Zolo Azania was sentenced to death by an all white jury in Allen County, Indiana in 1996. A few months after he was sentenced, it was revealed that Allen County?s computerized jury selection program had systematically excluded 87% of Wayne Township, the largest and most diverse township in Allen County, from any chance of serving on a jury. Wayne Township is home to 75% of Allen County?s voting age African American population. After this was discovered, all criminal defendants with pending cases were given the opportunity to postpone their trials until a new system could be put in place. Presiding Judge John F. Surbeck stated it would have been ?absolutely unfair? for anyone to proceed to trial. Why wasn?t Zolo, who was sentenced to death a few months prior, given a new trial?

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette published an editorial on March 14th, 2001 calling for a new sentencing hearing for Zolo because of the systematic exclusion of blacks from the Allen County jury system:

"A jury that reflects the makeup of the community is a right, not a luxury to be discarded when it becomes inconvenient. The death penalty makes it all the more important that Azania receive a sentencing hearing untainted by errors in the jury-selection process."

Your support on May 2nd will be crucial in making sure that Zolo Azania is not executed by the racist Indiana criminal justice system.

More info, including a PDF flyer:
www.prairie-fire.org/freezoloazania.html
 
 

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