[Ppnews] Zolo Azania update

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Dec 13 10:41:22 EST 2007

Today, December 12, 2007, Zolo Agona Azania turns 53.

The Indiana courts have set a new date for a trial
before a jury on the sole issue of Zolo’s sentence,
which could be the death penalty, on October 20, 2008.

Since 1981, for more than 25 years, he has been
imprisoned by the state of Indiana.   He is recognized
by the Jericho Movement and others as a political
prisoner.  Zolo did not receive a fair trial and has
always maintained his total innocence of any
involvement in the crime for which he is imprisoned.

Zolo is a prolific writer and an accomplished artist
whose work has been exhibited in many places around
the country.  His writing and his art reflect who he
is: A man who lives his political convictions.  At the
time of his arrest for the shooting death of a
policeman, Zolo was a well known activist in his
hometown of Gary, Indiana.  He was an ex-con who had
grown up in extreme poverty, but he was also the
valedictorian of his CETA federal job training class
and had received a scholarship to Purdue University
just prior to his arrest.  He was involved in the
campaign to make Martin Luther King's birthday a
national holiday and had designed a button used by
campaigners in Gary. He also declared himself a
conscious citizen of the Republic of New Afrika and
was involved in the struggle for self-determination of
African people in America.

Since his arrest Zolo has fought the charges against
him from his prison cell, often on death row.  His
tireless efforts have exposed the unfair and racist
way his case has been handled by the authorities.  He
has defended his own rights and the rights of other
prisoners winning the respect of fellow prisoners and
jailers alike.  His victories, overturning his death
sentence twice, have set precedents cited by other

As Indiana Circuit Court Judge Steve David wrote in a
May, 2005 decision: "fundamental principles of
fairness, due process, and speedy justice" were
violated in Zolo's case.  Judge David also pointed out
that "the State bears most of the responsibility for
the delay between the defendant's 1982 conviction and
the currently pending penalty proceeding." In 1993,
the Indiana Supreme Court overturned Zolo's original
death sentence because the prosecution had failed to
turned over a gunshot residue test. In 2002, the
Indiana Supreme Court overturned Zolo's second death
sentence because "the jury pool selection process was
fundamentally flawed," including the unconstitutional
exclusion of Blacks.

Judge Steve David ruled that prosecutors could no
longer seek the death penalty because Zolo’s
constitutional rights to a speedy trial and due
process would be violated.  But prosecutors appealed
and two years later, the court ruled that “neither the
delay nor any prejudice that Azania may suffer from it
violates his constitutional rights
the State may
continue to seek the death penalty.  The Court then
appointed Marion Superior Court Judge Robert Altice as
special judge to preside over Zolo’s new penalty
phase, because Judge Steven David was called to active
military duty.

Now the Indiana courts have set a new date for a trial
before a jury on the sole issue of Zolo’s sentence on
October 20, 2008.  The proceeding will probably be in
Fort Wayne, however Zolo and his lawyers, Jesse A.
Cook of Terre Haute, Indiana and Michael E. Deutsch of
the National Lawyers Guild and the People’s Law Office
in Chicago are fighting for a change of venue to Gary,
Indiana or Indianapolis, both cities with a more
diverse jury pool.  Zolo hopes that progressive
activists will again pack the courtroom to show their
opposition to the death penalty as they have in the

The Indiana courts have also held that Zolo’s new
sentencing proceeding will be conducted pursuant to
the current  Indiana death penalty statute enacted in
2002, which means that when the trial court judge
receives a sentencing recommendation from the jury,
the judge is to sentence the defendant “accordingly” ­
whether the jury recommends the death penalty, or a
term of years.

The jury will thus be presented with the stark choice
of the death penalty or Zolo’s release within a short
time, and the danger is that the jurors will chose the
death penalty because they may succumb to media
hysteria and believe that a person convicted of
killing a police officer is too dangerous to let out
of prison.  The Indiana Supreme Court has written that
  “In Azania’s case, the specter of an unconstitutional
sentence particularly arises where the jury might
consider Azania’s future dangerousness. We held that
future dangerousness was not a concern in Azania’s
re-sentencing, because the trial judge would have the
final say in applying the death penalty and because
the jury system requires that we trust juries to
follow the law in their deliberations. With the trial
judge’s sentencing discretion limited by the 2002
death penalty statute amendment, we emphasize
that a trial judge is not expected, and indeed
not permitted, to enter a sentence where the sentence,
or the manner of arriving at it, is illegal."

The stakes are high for this next step in Zolo’s more
than a quarter century of fighting for justice, for
his freedom and for his very life. Those who oppose
the death penalty need to continue to get the word out
that Zolo is a wonderful person who contributed much
to the lives of others and still has much to
contribute, and that the government should not be
allowed to put him to death.

What can we do to support Zolo?

Plan to come to court in October 2008, 

and send Zolo a birthday greeting at:
Zolo Azania
Indiana State Prison
P.O. Box 41
Michigan City, IN 46361

For more info see:

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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