Brothers and Sisters:
It seems a long time ago in an other universe that I showed up in September, 1971 at Rutgers Law School, Newark to embark on my legal career. Many of you have heard the story of how, after being a school librarian in Harlem and the Lower East Side and after we had been defeated in our righteous fight for community control of the New York City schools in the sixties–I realized that I had to concentrate on breaking free of the stranglehold of educational bureaucracy and go in a different direction. I could not have done it without the man who is delivering this message for me–my partner, comrade in arms, my heartbeat–Ralph Poynter. Thinking about my realization and what it meant for our future, I went to his motorcycle shop (small and virtually not for profit),mightily pregnant with our third child and said that I needed to get out of the school system–I loved the kids but could no longer be a part of what was being done to them. He asked, What did I want to do? I said, I always wanted to go to Law School. Without missing a beat, without saying how can we afford that now, he said, Well I guess you better go.
And go, I did. We were all but broke but Rutgers gave me what my grandchildren now call a “free ride”. Admissions liked my militant background, I think. And so, in September 1971, I showed up on Newark Avenue for orientation –some boring speechifying I thought . Was I ever wrong ??!! First we were informed that Rutgers had achieved an admission of over 50% women, and as I looked around I saw sisters of all colors and ages and economic strata. After prolonged applause, a small dynamo of a man with a long tie was introduced. His voice was not memorable but Oh! his words as he spoke to us that afternoon so long ago !! It was, of course, Arthur Kinoy, Civil, Human Rights warrior and Innovator and Creative Force of the Law. I came home that day with my heart and mind full of dreams–all Inspired by Arthur.
And in all the years that have followed, that flame that was lit that day has continued to flourish for me. Shortly after my arrest in 2002, at a rally at Cardozo Law School, Arthur spoke and reminded us all that cases like mine are won not only in the Courts but on the Streets. Still true today and especially now, for me. He also did me the greatest honor when he dubbed me a “People’s Lawyer”— my hero, Arthur Kinoy denoting Me with his highest praise.
Never in my legal career was I ever a great student or scholar. As a matter of fact at Rutgers I may be more remembered for the motorcycle I rode to school than for brilliant analysis in class. (As an aside I was so delighted to see that Al Slocum was also an awardee tonight. He was my professor in Criminal Law (Procedure?) also that first semester. He was my kind of down to earth, critical thinking, kick their asses Black Man that I have always loved and respected — and he could teach, too !)
To pick up the thread again, I came to Rutgers. I made mediocre grades except with the classes I loved, KInoy, Slocum, Smith. I graduated, passed the bar (flunked in NY and had to take it again !) and the rest is history. My career as a trial lawyer fulfilled my great desire for joinder against the State on behalf of the downtrodden, oppressed—and I loved it. I still can’t pass those courthouses in which I worked for 30 years, with a dry eye.
Now I am ready to dedicate myself to the next phase of my life. First to come home myself and then I see myself fighting to bring home all of the political prisoners, who have sacrificed their lives for causes and community. I see myself taking up the cause of women in prison and the inequities they and their children face. Mostly, I hope I will be able to speak to new would-be lawyers who have just embarked on the yellow brick road toward justice and rouse their hearts and souls as Arthur Kinoy once did mine.
I have fears for Tom Turkey, this year.
Tom is the live Thanksgiving* Turkey donated to the White House for the dinner. And every year since he has taken office, Obama has pardoned him. I am afraid for the poor bird this year since this same President does not seem to have it in his heart or intellect to understand the true nature of Mercy to be shown to birds, not to mention human beings.
While the government opens and closes and the debt ceiling rises and falls, thousands in the federal prisons are awaiting the fateful word on whether their requests for release, based on terminal illness, age, loss of ability to function, extended sentence and simple justice to undo evils of the past, will be granted or not. This suffering humanity is only to be compared to the WWII prison camps and the death and destruction of the endless wars. We have only empty words of Attorney General Holder about Intentions — no concrete actions. We have a report from the Inspector General’s office citing compassionate release as “cruelty” because so many die before any decision is ever reached. As far as pardons and clemency are concerned–the wait is two to three years and Obama has exercised his ” benign perogative” only 39 times. The despised Reagan and Bush both did ten and three times as many. So all of you (us) who voted Obama as being the lesser of the two evils (which is still evil, remember !) need to hold his forgetful feet to the fire.
But then again, maybe my concern for Tom Turkey is premature. Maybe this austere President will once again do the right thing for the poor bird. After all, he has impressionable children who might be distressed at the slaughter of the Turkey. I just want him to remember all the impressionable children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the prisoners who are waiting. I have a cousin who has a Turkey farm in Duanesburg, NY. I’m sure Tom would be happy to be there and live out his life with the other turkeys. As for me, I have a family and a shortened life waiting for me in Brooklyn,NY. I, like Tom, would be happy to be there if only the President and his bureaucrats can find the heart.
* Thanksgiving is not my name for this holiday. Rather as some prominent Native American activists suggest it should be Thanks-taking. And those who fast on this day at Plymouth Rock have my respect, solidarity and esteem.
Brothers and Sisters of the National Lawyers Guild
I wanted to send you this most important Health Bulletin–Not Personal (pause) but on the steady evisceration of the Right to Counsel, the bulwark of all we do. Within the last weeks, a suspect was forcibly detained for crimes against the US. He was taken from Libya to an offshore (ship?) where he was being interrogated, read tortured. When the Public Defenders of the Southern District of New York, where his case is ostensibly pending, attempted to have counsel appointed for him, they were turned down in no uncertain terms by Judges using the now all too common weasel words. But this is not a new phenomenon–it is apparent over and over again and the question remains–what are WE, who claim to be the last protection against an overreaching state going to do about it?
How important is this ? I need to tell a couple of anecdotes about lawyering–my dear deceased friend Bill Kunstler in the tumultuous years in which the FBI-JTTF was rounding up the remnants of the Underground, Sekou Odinga, a member of the Black Panthers and then the Black Liberation Army, related to me that he had been detained in a Queens NYC precinct for many hours, was being water boarded by the police in one of the toilets, and was really feeling it badly when all at once he heard the booming voice of the Great Kunstler echoing through the hallways demanding to see his client and he knew that he had been saved. The other story was one that I told at an earlier convention and a young lawyer from San Diego wrote to tell me that it had turned her life around. After my arrest, Ralph and I were stuck in Manhattan traffic, when a bicycle messenger pulled up and tapped on my window. When I opened it he said in an excited and joyous voice “You THE Lawyer !! You the LAWYER !!! Indeed I was and Indeed it was and is my greatest ambition and accomplishment to be THE lawyer.
Back in the day and I mean way back, when this adversary system had its origins, the accused had the right to select a champion to fight for their rights and I mean fight–jousting, swordplay, mace and chain — ok perhaps a little hyperbole, BUT the message is clear–we were hired for our brawn as well as brains, our courage as well as legal acumen. We need to get courage and creativity in combat, back into the equation. It’s not about schmoozing the prosecution or the Judge. How many courtrooms have I walked into where there was not one friendly face–there was just me and the client ? Even the stenographers were hostile ! And that’s ok because I was there for only one reason, the one I took an oath to zealously pursue, the defense of my client. Was it fearsome personally? Of course. But to do otherwise was more so.
I urge everyone to return to the days of robust lawyering. Be Bill Kunstler in the precinct. Be “THE LAWYER” . Be the champion who defends fearlessly. When I say that the right to counsel is being eviscerated I mean that the forces of the empire are very busy removing the nerves, the hearts and guts of the Fifth Amendment and leaving it a shell of what it was and can be. We are the opposition that need to gather our shields and swords in its defense and be selfless and brave. Let us press forward–Instead of the derision we often face, let us all strive to be “the Lawyer” respected and honored.
Click here to read a letter in support of compassionate release for Lynne from a fellow prisoner at FMC Carswell.
“For the past two years I have interacted with Ms. Stewart and she has been a God-send to not only me, but many numerous inmates with her positive attitude and wonderful living skills that she has imparted to others.”
A Message for October 8, my 74 Birthday
It is certainly sobering to be celebrating the start of my 74 year mired down in this prison. It is even more so when there is my life line that must be considered. Nonetheless, I remain my ebullient self and face my fight and my future with optimism. Part of the reason for this is the wonderful mail I receive daily from people all over the U.S. and the world. From Tasmania to Tel Aviv (!?) people write and tell me of the role I play and have played in their lives. It is overwhelming sometimes.
Today, I have asked you all to rally once again on my behalf. (Little did we know they would close down the federal government last week. A conspiracy to keep me here? smile) By coming out and making another statement on my behalf, I think you are taking a stand for everyone behind bars. They can lock us down but they cannot lock us away from the people, who are now coming to have a different sense of the futility and cruelty of the prison system, and who will take action if called upon. I am happy to be the poster girl, oops, woman for this. I know it will never be a some time thing for me and that when I am in the world again (and I WILL BE IN THE WORLD AGAIN !) this struggle is one that I must continue. I hope we all give a heartfelt wish for health and release for Herman Wallace, a valiant warrior, our brother comrade, who is dying in Angola, after 40 years of solitary. [Herman Wallace died a free man shortly after his release.]
Hoping that it is a glorious day wherever you are hearing this–my mom always remarked that the Sunday I was born was perfect weather . I guess I am waxing nostalgic but blow out the candles and have a bite of the birthday cake and know that I am indebted to all of you and to our movement for the fabulous and courageous support you have shown me over these years. We go on to victory for one elder woman(me) but also to express our outrage at this heartless system.
From Deep in the Belly of the Beast…that is, Texas.
Now another month has passed and I am getting increasingly irritable that these jokers are so cavalier with my life and what time I have left. ( I also am getting weaker.) My application for compassionate release is moving but glacially (are there any glaciers left ? Only in the bureaucracy…) We learned that the request has left the General Counsel’s office of the Bureau of Prisons in Washington and is now being considered by an “Independent Committee” (whatever that means). From there it will ostensibly go to the Director, Mr. Samuels, for the final recommendation and request for a motion to the Judge.
As you can appreciate there is still plenty of room for slips between cup and lip. I truly understand that I, with the strong and consistent support of all 30,000+ of you, do constitute a “threat” in their small universe. That is to say that, the will of the People cannot be ignored forever. With that in mind, I want to urge everyone to come on out on
OCTOBER 8, TUESDAY, MY 74th BIRTHDAY
ORGANIZE ORGANIZE ORGANIZE ORGANIZE ORGANIZE ORGANIZE
YOU AND YOUR COMRADES, FRIENDS, ACQUAINTANCES CAN GATHER AT
If you can do this please notify Ralph of your location (917 853 9759, 518 358 2525) or email my web site. We hope this will be nationwide and we can spread the word of the senseless cruelty in the way the Bureau of Prisons administers a program that is supposed to be compassionate. I may be the “poster child” but this is done on behalf of all the prisoners who are languishing, in pain or worse, trying to go home.
Be Out there on October 8. It is already an historic day. Let’s make it More So!!! Let’s Win.
… “As The Days Dwindle Down to a Precious Few … September…” The words of the beautiful old September Song really resonate right now. As a matter of fact Ralph and I sang a chorus in the visiting room here yesterday. We are now once again on the wait. Carswell has my re-application. Of course it is even more urgent as the prognosis is shortened by Time itself and the progression of the evil disease –the Cancer, that is. I am engaged in a new chemo and it seems to give me aches and pains and a loss of stamina but nothing terribly debilitating. Thank goodness.
Because of past experience (all of it !) we are putting into place a plan for local demos/vigils all over the country on October 8, my birthday. SAVE The DATE. It will highlight my ongoing fight against the unreasonable prison system and also that of all my fellow political prisoners. Basically our theme (still in progress) is to fight this illegal imposition of my “death penalty” especially as on that date I am celebrating 74 wonderful years on the planet . We hope to be able to enlist many organizations , especially the local Lawyers’ Guilds, and hope to have the flowering of many blooms. We will announce details as they become available but don’t be shy, step right up, organize something where You live ! Call Ralph 917-853-9759
Remember, the ending lyrics of the September Song are …”These Precious Days I’ll Spend with YOU…” Make it happen.
Lynne, August 2013.
New York City rally for Lynne.
National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Rally for Lynne.
Friends, Supporters, Comrades:
Well, we are once again being educated in the meaning of “protracted struggle”, not that anyone wanted or needed this. It was clear yesterday in Court in NYC that Judge Koeltl was not going to act solely within the “spirit ” of the law but would instead rely upon the Bureau of Prisons to make a “legal” motion on my behalf. Although the lawyers valiently argued that justice does not allow for a “right” without a “remedy”, in my case, the right to die at home and the fact that there is no appeal (remedy) from the Bureau’s decision.
There are new and compelling facts now before the BOP–the prognosis now of 18 months and the fact that the PET scan revealed that the most serious cancer (of the lungs) is getting worse. The Judge yesterday, asked the Government to concede (as their papers did by not contesting any facts) that I qualified in every respect for the release. They, of course, remained silent. For that reason I am asking once again that all of you send a “shout” out to the BOP, AG Holder and Pres. Obama and express any outrage you might feel that the days and months are ticking by and I remain in Texas. The DC Prison Bureaucracy clearly would just as soon see me die here.
So, not to be discouraged or disinheartened by this latest legal impediment–the walls of Jericho DID come tumbling down, eventually !!
By Now we will have filed papers which take us back into Federal Court in New York City to request that Judge Koeltl overturn the barbaric decision by the Bureau of Prisons and allow me to leave this empty loveless Prison and go home to People and Places familiar and beloved. I certainly am sick enough–even my oncologist revised her prognosis down to 18 months now. However, my spirit remains undaunted and when I compare myself to other far worse off than I am–the Guantanamo and Pelican Bay prisoners, Marie Mason, Afra Siddiqui, Hugo Yogi Pinell, those under death Penalty like Kevin Cooper, the remaining Angola 2, Ruchel Magee and my fellow New Yorkers Jalil, Sekou, Herman, Seth, David, Abdul –let me stop before I choke up here… I know we MUST win my fight and the struggle for all other political prisoners to be freed. And then we must struggle for all to be free in this country.
How much can we, the People, take? Their austerity is barbaric cruelty with food stamps gone and public housing unavailable, permanently. How long can the 1% continue to rule and the corporations call the shots? There is so much wrong but we are not allowed to despair since we have been given sight in this land of the blind and hopeless and heartless, So, that said, let’s once again get out there as often as needs be–for all the causes, for all the humanity. for the future. Forward, ever Forward !!
Disappointed but Not Devastated
Disappointed but Not Devastated
My Dear Friends, Supporters, Comrades:
I know we are all disappointed to the marrow of our bones and the depths of our hearts by the news that the Bureaucrats, Kafka like, have turned down my request for compassionate release.
Let me say, that we are planning ahead. The letter from the BOP (soon to be posted on the website) is flawed, to put it mildly. Both factually and medically it has major problems. We intend to go to court and raise these in front of my sentencing Judge Koeltl. At the first sentencing he responded to a query by one of the lawyers that he didn’t want me to die in prison — we’ll see if he can now live up to that. He is of course the same Judge who increased my sentence to 10 years — but this IS very different and we can only hope that we can prevail. Stay tuned for what we need from you. We will never give up.
In the meantime, once again, I grieve for my children and grandchildren who love me so much and had such great expectations of enjoying life together again in our beloved NYC and not just trying to, in the prison visiting room. My Ralph, too, whose dedication and love are only exceeded by the work he does on my behalf — but he is a born fighter and although he hurts, it all comes more naturally to him.
But for everyone else, I hope that your affront at this crass bureaucratic denial of the request which you by your signatures and letters and phone calls demanded — How far can we let this go? when a 73-year old woman who IS dying of cancer (maybe not on their timetable,) her life of good works ignored, be shunted aside … “she does not present circumstances considered extraordinary and compelling … at this time.” We must show them that I cannot be ignored, that YOU cannot be ignored.”
Fight On — All of Us or None of Us. An affront to one is an affront to all.
Dear Friends and Supporters:
One month ago I made a request for compassionate release which was honored by the warden at Carswell Federal Medical Center. Today the papers are still on a desk in Washington, D.C. even though the terminal cancer that I have contracted requires expeditious action.
Although I requested immediate action by the Bureau of Prisons, I find it necessary to again request immediate action from you, my friends, comrades and supporters to call the three numbers listed below on Thursday, May 30 and request action on my behalf.
This could result in my being able to access medical treatment at Sloan Kettering so that I can face the rest of my life with dignity surrounded by those I love and who love me.
Please do this.
Lynne Stewart FMS CARSWELL-53504-054 & Ralph Poynter
CALL THURSDAY MAY 30th:
Attorney General Eric Holder - 1 202 514 2001
White House President Obama – 1 202 456 1414
B.O.P. – Director Charles Samuels – 1 202.307.3250
We’re at over 16,000 signers!
Lynne Stewart sends her appreciation to petition signatories:
The acknowledgement of the life-political, and solutions brought about by group unity and support, is important to all of us. Equally, so is the courage to sign on to a demand for a person whom the Government has branded with the “T” word — Terrorist. Understanding that the attack on me is a subterfuge for an attack on all lawyers who advocate without fear of Government displeasure, with intellectual honesty guided by their knowledge and their client’s desire for his or her case, I hope our effort can be a crack in the American bastion. Thank you. Lynne
03/20/13 Federal Medical Center, Carswell
Lynne speaks with Noelle Hanrahan of PrisonRadio (pre-incarceration).
Health Bulletin from Lynne May 2013
I wanted everyone to be aware of the latest state of the metastasis of my cancer, as revealed by the most recent PET scan. While the lymph nodes and scapula have shown great improvement in size and density following chemo, the cancer in my lungs has not appreciably changed. It is still Stage 4. Since I am now finished with the four chemo treatments that are considered safe, there will need to be a new course of treatment.
As you all know, I am determined to fight fight fight and one day walk out of Prison—soon. Right now, I am finding myself very weary, needing frequent naps. Worse, I am affected by the Chemo brain which takes a toll on my memory and my ability to task and multi task. As most of you would agree, nothing can be as cruel as that which affects mental ability. Nonetheless, I am trying — I have lost appetite (hence the pounds shed –some earlier and not due to cancer but to Jail) and, of course, my hair. Now that the chemo has ended, I hope that my energy level will pick up and I will be able to resume my writing and correspondence.
Meanwhile, it is more important than ever that we keep up the pressure on the Bureau of Prisons and that they do not snatch victory and turn it into defeat. We are waiting for an inspection by the Probation Department in New York, of my sons’s home where I intend to be cared for in Brooklyn. Then the motion by the Washington BOP to Judge Koeltl and his decision. None of this will happen unless we keep up the pressure. Together we all have accomplished much (See comment on “More Releases of Ailing Prisoners” NYT 5/2/13) But we have miles to go before we sleep and I must say when I return to my bed after a slight exertion, I am mighty happy to sigh and fall in !! Bring me home !!
IMPACT OF NUMBERS –Diverse and Impassioned – From Lynne
After experiencing a great happiness as I learned that our request for my compassionate release had been approved had been recommended, I truly felt a resounding depth of joy when I read in the New York Times that the Bureau of Prisons’ Inspector General has recommended “More Releases of Ailing Prisoners…” NYT May 2,2013. Of course, my gratitude to the many people who signed on the petition and wrote is unbounded BUT as a lifelong advocate, if my case can budge the bureaucracy to unfreeze the safety valve for the dangerously ill who are confined in these prisons without hope of release, that is a much greater victory to me and all of us.
Carswell is the only womens’ prison hospital in the Federal System and is replete with tragedy. While not going into detail, let me just say that there now seems to be a crack in the wall because of the reaction of all of you to the call to aid me in the hour of need. That answer is reverberating and may well serve not only me but countless others who are ill and not so fortunate as I. This is what I want as my Legacy — to make it better for others who may not be able to rally as I was able to.
Lynne Stewart. May 4, 2013
STATEMENT FROM LYNNE STEWART & RALPH POYNTER RE: HER COMPASSIONATE RELEASE
A worldwide Embrace to all of the thousands of People who helped Me ! As my hero said, we are motivated by great feelings of love and compassion and I am fortunate to be the beneficiary, this time around.
To savor this victory, you all should know that the Carswell Prison authorities kept telling me ” It can’t be done”. You don’t qualify. Why bother? Wait till you are closer to death! To all of them I replied that I have been fighting battles like this all my life and I would never quit. Then I had this white blood cell setback, making me super-vulnerable and was quarantined for a week. I was relieved on Friday to learn that indeed “the children had shouted” and the walls ” Did come a-tumblin’ down “ I must say that I was in a state of bliss. Not Just to Win but to accomplish it in the time honored method , … we will organize the People and you dare not ignore us !!
I owe an enormous debt to so many. This is the one we had to win where the medical decision was made that compassionate release was warranted. That cannot be trifled with BUT… we who have been out here struggling from the fifties onward know that the Government is masterful at Co-optation at snatching victory and making it defeat. Please do not think that my struggle is WON. We have this fabulous win but we still have the DC National Bureau of Prisons (if there ever was a time to hold Obama’s feet to the fire, this is it) and then their forwarding of the case to the Judge in New York for a final decision (Yes, the same one that increased my original sentence from 28 months to 10 years !) So please, please, please do not let us rest on our laurels. Until my feet are planted like the Tree that grows in Brooklyn, and I am among my family, friends, and comrades and plunged back into the struggle once more, we must continue. Fight On!!
4/16/13; 8:55 am
This was sent to me by Elizabeth Sarafty, Malone, New York a comrade in a weekly vigil there for Out of Iraq and a strong supporter ever since my arrest. Her husband was an activist priest.
If I should pass the Tomb of Jonah
- Carl Sandberg
Letter from Lynne responding to Desmond Tutu’s message of support:
My dear honorable Desmond Tutu:
I hardly know how to address you, for while we have never met face to face we are bonded as only those who fight for the rights and justice of humanity can be. As my husband and I are activists of many years and struggles, we can claim this lovely unity with you harking back to Nelson Mandela at Robbin Island, the original ANC and before. While I know you are still engaged in helping South Africa reach the highest level of the expectations of freedom, I am most pleased and amazed that you have taken the time to support my efforts against the US prison system.
I have now been in jail as a political prisoner since 2009, but only recently been diagnosed with fatal cancer. The “mechanism” in the US law that allows “compassionate release” is so infrequently utilized that the New York Times did an editorial criticizing the system. Anytime the key to the jailhouse is placed in the hands of uncaring bureaucrats, freedom is at stake.
Having been informed that their “rule” is that one must have death in the room–a prognosis of a year or less, to be considered, once again forces me to don my armor and do battle—not just for me but for all the millions of prisoners who do not receive the consideration that they deserve. It is a fight to demand that each person is treated with individual care and attention. It is with great joy that I see you joining me and this renews my hope and belief that the worldwide network of good caring people exists and can be made manifest.
This is a cry from deep in my soul on behalf of my sisters–abused, forgotten, made marginal. We are always aware of our place on the rungs of the ladder of oppression based on race and class and sex.
Since this needs be brief I want to first talk about sisters Indian–Asian and Native American. It is the most difficult concept to conceive of the evil predatory communities these women on different sides of the world live in. Rape is VIOLENCE not sex. It has been routine for men to absolutely do as they will without any fear of retribution legally. There have been no courts to Prosecute, to PUNISH. My first rejoinder is always to urge self-defense–that will always get a woman to Court. But she may be the victim again. Right now, the Congress has passed a “law” that we hope will protect Native Indian women here. But there have been many “Laws”. There is greater hope in India where there has been a righteous female uprising that cannot, will not be ignored.
Briefly I just want to mention –women who are not in the cruel world but suffer behind bars –cages, if you will. Some of us are political –here because the Government has criminalized our actions or framed us –I call out to you to Remember and Cherish Marie Mason, a “green warrior”, Afra Siddique ” a heroine in her own Pakistan for her brave resistance”, and also Me–Still fighting, Still Struggling. Still loving you all.