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IL. Death Row Canned * In the Spirit of Crazy Horse

12 January 2003

4) 'Blanket commutation' empties Illinois death row
Also: Update on Zolo Agona Azania
5) In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: Strange Man of the Oglalas

Editor's Notes:

Item 4 is about the "noble" work of outgoing Illinois Governor, giving a 'Blanket commutation' to empty Illinois' death row. Hallelujah! Following the CNN report, check the link for consideration in supporting Ryan for the Nobel Peace Prize. If only Indiana would see the light; more in this item covers the case of Zolo Agona Azania, who's execution was stayed since a perjured witness was discovered working deceptively in cahoots with the prosecution. So typical, but unless we stand united, and take action, our individual voices will fall on deaf ears, as violent time takes its toll on individuals' inalienable human rights.

Item 5 is about a classic book by Mari Sandoz, published in 1938, the biography called: Crazy Horse: Strange Man of the Oglalas. She interviewed living witnesses to chronicle this sacred life, and the betrayal, not just from the US government, but also by those of his own people. Yet the story is about evolutionary politics, and about our uniting for a new revolution (or transformation) in the US government. For us to unite effectively, as one people, the lessons of Crazy Horse and Leonard Peltier must come to light, and we need to unite behind what is good in the USA, before darkness covers the land from all man.

It takes wisdom to have great power and to make gentle its presence in the world.

- Dennis J. Kucinich

4) 'Blanket commutation' empties Illinois death row

'Blanket commutation' empties Illinois death row
Incoming governor criticizes decision

From Jeff Flock
Saturday, January 11, 2003 Posted: 4:58 PM EST (2158 GMT)

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- Outgoing Illinois Gov. George Ryan announced Saturday that he had commuted the sentences of all of the state's death row inmates and said he would "sleep well knowing I made the right decision."

He delivered his unprecedented speech at Northwestern University.

"Our capital system is haunted by the demon of error: error in determining guilt and error in determining who among the guilty deserves to die. What effect was race having? What effect was poverty having?

"Because of all these reasons, today I am commuting the sentences of all death row inmates," Ryan said.

Ryan, a Republican who did not run for re-election in November, acknowledged during his speech that his actions would not be universally applauded. But he said he felt he had no choice but to strike a blow in "what is shaping up to be one of the great civil rights struggles of our time."

"This is blanket commutation," Ryan said. "I didn't believe I would do it myself. I realize my decision will draw ridicule, scorn and anger from those who oppose it.

"But I can tell you this," he added. "I'm going to sleep well tonight knowing that I made the right decision."

Ryan, who leaves office Monday, pardoned four death row inmates Friday after determining they had been tortured into confessing crimes they did not commit.

Madison Hobley, Leroy Orange and Aaron Patterson were released after their gubernatorial pardon Friday. Another inmate, Stanley Howard, remained in prison because he had been convicted of a separate crime.

The governor's announcement Saturday covers all of the 157 people, four of them women, on death row in four Illinois prisons. Not included in the commutations, a source in the governor's office said, will be inmates who have been convicted but not yet sentenced or who have been remanded for a new trial.

All but three of the commutations will reduce the inmates' sentences to life without parole; the remaining three will be reduced to 40 years to life to bring their sentences in line with co-defendants.

Gov.-elect Rod Blagojevich, the Democrat who will replace Ryan, told CNN on Saturday that he disagreed with the governor's decision.

"I think a blanket anything is usually wrong," Blagojevich said. "We're talking about convicted murderers, and I think that is a mistake."

Capital punishment in Illinois came under the microscope after a group of journalism students at Northwestern began looking into the case of Anthony Porter in the late 1990s.

The students, working with their professor and a private investigator, found evidence that cleared Porter after 17 years on death row. Ryan vowed he would do whatever it took to "prevent another Anthony Porter."

Ultimately, 13 inmates who had been sentenced to death were exonerated, and Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in the state.

A panel Ryan appointed to examine capital punishment and review the cases of all death row inmates concluded last year that Illinois had applied capital punishment too often since it was re-established in the state in 1977.

In Saturday's speech, Ryan slammed the use of the death penalty in his state.

"The death penalty in Illinois is not imposed fairly or uniformly," said Ryan, but is often based on geography, race, nationality or economic status.

"The legislature couldn't reform it," the 69-year-old governor said. "Lawmakers won't repeal it. And I won't stand for it."

Prosecutor: 'They've had their years in court'

Friday's pardons, coupled with early word that the governor was planning to issue commutations, sparked outrage from prosecutors and family members of victims.

"I believe that he is wiping his muddy shoes on the face of victims, using them as the doormat as he leaves his office," said Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons on CNN's Newsnight. "It says much more about George Ryan than it does about the death penalty."

Ollie Dodds, whose daughter died in the fire Hobley was convicted of setting and remains convinced he is responsible, said, "This brings back memories just like it happened."

"By his actions today, the governor has breached faith with the memory of the dead victims, their families and the people he was elected to serve," said Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine, who called the pardons "unconscionable."

Lyons accused Ryan of arrogantly substituting his own judgment for those of juries and courts that have imposed and upheld the death sentences, assuming that "none of us get it but him."

"Everybody has had not their day in court, they've had their years in court," Lyons said. "It's shameful that the victims of this state, in fact, have to not fear the courts, not the defense lawyers, not the defendants, but they have to fear their very own governor."

Ryan said he decided to pardon the four men rather than commute their sentences to life because he is convinced they did not commit the crimes that sent them to death row. All four men claim they were tortured by police.

"I believe these men are innocent or I wouldn't have pardoned them," he said Friday. "There isn't any doubt in my mind these four men were wrongfully prosecuted and wrongfully sentenced to die."

"The system has failed for all four men, and it has failed for all of the people of this state," Ryan said in a speech at DePaul University Law School.

'Thank God this day has finally come'

Hobley, 42, who was convicted of killing seven people, including his wife and son, in a fire in 1987, said the pardon was a "dream come true."

"Thank God that this day has finally come," he said after being released from a state prison in Pontiac.

Orange, 52, who was condemned after being convicted of four murders in 1985, said he felt "alive" as he walked out of the Cook County Jail on Friday.

"I didn't believe it when I first found out about it," he said. "Thank you with all my heart and soul, and please do something for the remaining guys on death row."

Patterson, 38, said he's "going to do all right" after walking out of the Pontiac prison. He was sentenced to die for the murder of a Chicago couple in 1986.

"It was long overdue, and I thank Governor Ryan for taking the appropriate steps and having the courage to do the right thing," he said.

All four are part of a group of 10 death row prisoners who claim they were tortured into giving confessions under the direction of then-Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. He was fired after internal police investigators found systemic evidence of physical abuse of suspects.

Copyright 2003 CNN. All rights reserved.

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Support Governor Ryan for the Nobel Peace Price!

The campaign is supported by a very active web site that can be found at

The web site is both a resource to anyone wanting to know more about Governor Ryan's achievements and a bulletin board for all the latest developments in the campaign. Press releases and other resources for the media and press will be available there.

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Also, in neighboring Indiana, check this issue of Zolo Agona Azania, struggling from Death Row professing his innocence.

"..After years of contesting the bogus charge, the death sentence was reversed (overturned) by the Indiana Supreme Court in 1993. But after a second trial on the sentence only, it was put on me again in 1996. Giving up was not an option; so the struggle for liberation continues !

I am holding my head up with much dignity and self-respect. I have a positive, constructive outlook on life. I do not believe that lies are more stronger than truth. I am seeking to garner pledges of concrete support from as many people as possible, and to let people know who I am. For without the essential moral and material support from concerned people, like you on the outside of prison, one has a tendency to become isolated and alienated in here, like a scuba diver cut off from fresh oxygen twenty-thousand leagues beneath the sea. Isolation is used as a means of total control, to imbue your mind with the feeling of being alone and helpless.

Both all-white Jury trials were rigged and corrupt evidence was falsified against me, in gross violation of my human rights. Even though they've been caught lying; they'll merely fabricate more lies to cover up for being found out. Through all the fire of persecution and hatred I remained undaunted.."

Zolo Agona Azania #4969
Indiana State Prison, PO Box 41
Michigan City, Indiana 46361-0041 USA

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References and Links

Indiana Court Overturns Death Sentence (11/23/02)
Court overturns death sentence of man who shot officer (11/25/02)
Right to be judged by jury of his peers (12/6/02)

For more information, recent developments, etc., contact:
Indiana Information Center on the Abolition of Capital Punishment

Visit the official web page for Zolo, his defense and communications, art work.

5) In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: Strange Man of the Oglalas

The following is excerpted from Colonial & Postcolonial Literary Dialogues. The dialog in this case is about the biography written by Mari Sandoz, Crazy Horse: the Strange Man of the Oglalas. Flyby News highly recommends reading this book. This following information will be posted also on the updated critical issue of "Leonard Peltier" linked from

[Page Created by: Allen Carey-Webb]
Western Michigan University

Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglalas

'Crazy Horse' is a biography of one of the most famous Native American warriors in recent history. Mari Sandoz, the author, interviewed dozens of Crazy Horse's people in the 1930's, all of them by then old people. From interviews, facts, and letters, she constructed this semi-fictionalized biography of the great Sioux warrior. He is most famous for defeating Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, but there was much more to his life than merely that one battle. The book attempts to describe and chart the lives of Crazy Horse and his Sioux people during the mid to late nineteenth century, during which they were enduring the immense pressures of the United States' Indian Wars, as well as settlers pressure on the Sioux land.


Mari Sandoz tells us Crazy Horse was born in or around the year 1842 to Sioux parents on Rapid Creek, in an area called the Black Hills, or Paha Sapa. The Black Hills were the center of Sioux land, which spread out into what is now called Wyoming, Nebraska, South and North Dakota, and Montana. The young boy was light-skinned compared to his people, and his hair was light-colored and curly, earning him his childhood name of 'Curly.'

When still just a pre-teen, Curly witnessed the shooting of some of his people by the Army, led by a man named Grattan. The shooting was over the loss of a cow, something ridiculous. This was one of dozens of incidents in the book where clashes between the whites and the Indians went badly; growing up with these types of things happening to his people constantly, Crazy Horse vowed to protect his people from the whites' invasion of Sioux land.

From bravery in battle, 'Curly' was granted the name of his father, Crazy Horse. Quickly he was recognized for his cunning, as well as bravery and skill in battle. Often Crazy Horse led decoys in battles, like in the Fetterman Massacre and Platte Bridge battles. There were many other Sioux warriors and leaders besides Crazy Horse who helped (often in giving up their lives) the effort of their people to keep their homeland. Others mentioned and chronicled in the book are Sitting Bull (the medicine man who once cut out 100 pieces of his own skin in order to get a vision), Young Man Afraid of His Horse, Spotted Tail, Worm (Crazy Horse's father's name in later life), Red Cloud, Touch the Clouds, Little Big Man, American Horse, Conquering Bear, He Dog, and Dull Knife.

Throughout the book there are mentions of promises and treaties struck up between the US government and the Indians, including the famous one that used the phrase 'as long as grass grows and rivers run.' Of course none of them worked, as eventually each and every one crumbled beneath the weight of westward expansion, manifest destiny, and an insatiable desire harboured by the whites for not just more land, but all of the land. The embodiment of the Indians' plight and frantic struggle for their precious homeland was in the Battle of the Little Big Horn (recounted in Crazy Horse, as well as from the white perspective in Sandoz' book The Battle of the Little Big Horn). Perhaps the most famous of all battles between Indians and the US
government, this one went down as the greatest defeat by the Indians in history.

General Custer (ironically known for his long, curly hair, too) and his soldiers were completely wiped out by the Sioux. But even this great conquest against the invading forces of the whites was not enough to stop the ever-encroaching tide of people. They kept coming and coming, eventually overwhelming even the Sioux by sheer numbers, and by killing their main food source, buffalo.

In a vision, Crazy Horse saw himself with a pebble in his hair in a hailstorm, protected from everything. In every battle he painted his horse in hailstones, and hung his medicine stone in a knot in his hair. The medicine held true, as he was never harmed by enemy bullets in any of his many skirmishes and wars. In the end, true to his vision, it was one of his own people who aided in his death. Two Sioux warriors, then turned into guards for the white men, were holding Crazy Horse's arms while he struggled against going into a prison, where he knew he would die. A soldier stabbed him several times with a bayonet in the back, resulting in his death.

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Sandoz, Mari. Crazy Horse: the Strange Man of the Oglalas.
Nebraska: Bison Books, University of Nebraska Press, 1971.
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Mari Sandoz literary page link (books for sale and some info) :

Sheridan County Publishing
117 North Main Street
Gordon, NE 69343
Ph/Fax: (308) 282-9972
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by Sandoz, Mari
Publisher: University Of Nebraska Press
ISBN: 0803292112
Retail Price: $ 14.95

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