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Veronza Bowers - Another Victim of America's Criminal Justice System

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Veronza Bowers, Jr. - Another Victim of America's Criminal Justice System - by Stephen Lendman

On September 15, 1973, Veronza Bowers, Jr. was arrested in Mill Valley, California and charged with robbery and possession of stolen property. After state charges were dropped for lack of probable cause to obtain a search warrant, the FBI arrested Bowers and charged him with the first-degree murder of National Park Service ranger Kenneth Patrick on August 5, 1973 at Point Reyes National Seashore near San Francisco.

At trial, testimonies from two government informants, Alan Veale and Jonathan Shoher, proved crucial. Both were also charged with the killing. Yet there were no independent eye-witnesses, and no evidence incriminated Bowers besides the word of these two men who had every incentive to cooperate with the Department of Justice.

Veale and Shoher were convicted bank robbers. In return for their testimony, their murder charges were dropped, and one of them served no prison time, was paid $10,000, and placed in the government's witness protection program.

Allegations were that the three men were at Point Reyes National Seashore to poach deer, ranger Patrick confronted them, and Bowers shot him three times. At trial, he testified for himself and steadfastly denied the charge. His wife's alibi testimony was dismissed as well as assertions by two relatives of the informants who insisted they were lying.

In April 1974, Bowers was convicted in San Francisco District Court and sentenced to life in prison. He's currently held at the United States Penitentiary (USP), Atlanta, Georgia.

In August 1979, after a failed prison escape from the Lompoc Federal Correctional Institution, Bowers became a model prisoner by focusing on his spiritual self. He became an author, musician, and student of Asian healing arts. He developed a strong interest in Buddhist meditation and hands-on healing techniques. He's an honorary Lompoc Tribe of Five Feathers member, a Native American spiritual and cultural group, and a mentor and founder of the All-Faith Meditation Group, a non-denominational spiritual organization devoted to healing meditation using the traditional Japanese shakuhachi flute.

At the expense of having his parole appeals denied, Bowers consistently maintains his innocence. Friends and supporters stand with him and offer testimony in his behalf.

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Neoma Kenwood is a California Appellate Project attorney who represented Bowers pro bono for many years. On August 14, 1991, he wrote to the Parole Commission, mainly as a friend, and said this was his first ever letter like this. He did it because "Mr. Bowers is in a special category....(he's) very different; I have found him to possess much more integrity and decency than many of my fellow professionals."

Prison Administrator J. Harrison praised Bowers in a 1991 letter for his "contributions to the operations and programs of the (US Penitentiary Terre Haute, IN) Recreation Department," calling them "numerous and significant." He added that he "can be depended upon to willingly and cheerfully perform any extra task which the staff of this department might ask of him, (and) strongly endorsed" his parole.

Numerous other support letters were similar, including one by Maynard Garfield. He's treasurer of the Veronza Bowers, Jr. legal defense fund. He describes him as mature, intelligent, thoughtful and compassionate, and considers it "a privilege and a pleasure to call him my friend." Yet he's been denied parole at his hearings. Garfield said:

"I have pleaded with him. Just tell them: 'I was young and did wrong. But I have found my way. I am a born-again Christian. I have found salvation.' "

Bowers responds:

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"Don't you understand. I have been here for 35 years. If the only way I can get out is to lie and say I am guilty, then my whole life if a sham. I will rot here in prison before I will do that."

According to Garfield, rot he may without considerable help, and that's why this article is written - to urge readers to go www.veronza.org for information about him and learn how to help. Numerous times before, he was approved for parole and given release dates, only to have them rescinded at the last moment.

On October 5, 2005, he was due for Mandatory Parole but again was denied. On July 18, 2005 Bryan Gaynor, Alan Chaset and Monty Levenson representing him explained as follows:

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