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Film to Examine Torture of Black Panthers

Alex Constantine - October 3, 2007

soffiyahelijah3 300x200 - Film to Examine Torture of Black PanthersKentucky Kernel
U. of Kentucky
Wesley Robinson
Section: Campus News

The 34-year-old torture confession case of Black Panther members will be under discussion today at 5 p.m. in the Worsham Theater of the Student Center.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center is sponsoring a viewing of the documentary, "Legacy of Torture." The film focuses on 13 Black Panther members who were arrested in New Orleans in 1973. Some of them were tortured into confessing details regarding the 1971 murder of a police clerk in San Francisco.

J. Soffiyah Elijah, director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School and a human rights activist, will speak after the documentary and answer questions from the audience.

Cases of racial injustice, like the Black Panther members' treatment, are still prevalent in society today, said Veleashia Smith, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center.

"I want people to have an understanding of the history that is behind (the Black Panther case), because if we are not careful, history will repeat itself," she said.

Three men were originally charged with the murder of the police clerk, Sgt. John V. Young, in 1975, but that case was thrown out after the court ruled that confessions had been obtained through torture.

The case was reopened in 2005, and several former members of the Black Panther Party were found in contempt of court for not testifying in relation to the 1971 murder.

The murder was also revisited in January when eight former Black Panther members were arrested on suspicion of Young's murder.

The eight men awaiting trial, dubbed the San Francisco 8 by their supporters, range in age from 58 to 70. Six have been released on bail while two continue serving life sentences in prison on unrelated charges.

Elijah, an advocate of the San Francisco 8, was interviewed in "Legacy of Torture."

Smith said she wants students to "feel a sense of advocacy" and to prevent similar situations involving racial injustice from happening in the future.

"It is important to understand the depths of racism in America," Smith said. "It's important to understand that the struggle still goes on today."

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