The accounts of other prisoners interviewed by Haas, PLO, and other lawyers reinforced Smith's heart-wrenching story. After returning to Chicago, Haas worked to publicize these accounts, but soon returned to working mostly on the Hampton case while his PLO colleagues continued to work with other lawyers in defending the 60 indicted prisoners, who became known as the "Attica Brothers."
They Got Away With Murder
Certainly, the $1.85 million lawsuit was only a partial victory. No amount of money can replace the lives of Hampton and Clark, or heal the gunshot injuries that several of the Panther survivors still suffer from today. Furthermore, it is painful to accept that none of the conspirators were ever convicted of any criminal charges, nor were they forced to pay for the settlement out of their own pockets. However, the scale of victory should not be judged by the settlement money alone. On the last page of the book, Haas describes a 2008 visit with Iberia Hampton shortly after her husband Francis had passed away. He asked her "after all these years, what do you think our lawsuit proved?" Without hesitation Iberia replied, "They got away with murder."
Indeed, they did get away with murder. In this context, the victorious civil rights lawsuit has been used to further expose and document this stark injustice. Many COINTELPRO files were made public because of the lawsuit, and the numerous conspirators were put under some scrutiny for the public to see. Today, if we learn anything from this story, it's that we should have no illusions about how far the government is willing to go in repressing dissent and then covering it up. Also, the courtroom victory that was fought against all odds should inspire activists today who are working around issues of state repression and political prisoners. We can win, and we should never give up the fight.FOR MORE, WATCH: 1971 film "The Murder of Fred Hampton."
--This article was originally published at www.TowardFreedom.com
--Hans Bennett is an independent multi-media journalist and co-founder of Journalists for Mumia Abu-Jamal. He has written for numerous publications, including Alternet, ColorLines, Upside Down World, Z Magazine, Dissident Voice, and Toward Freedom.