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Opinion: Join the Fight to Heal, Exonerate and Free Imam Jamil Al-Amin

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

By Maha ElKolalli, Esq.

Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, was born Hubert Giroir Brown on October 9, 1943 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but most Americans still know him by a different name: H. Rap Brown.

During the 1960s, Imam Jamil—then still known by his famous eponym—was the fifth chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and in 1968 served as the Minister of Justice between SNCC and the Black Panther Party. As the chairman of SNCC, he attended a contentious civil rights meeting at the White House with President Lyndon Johnson during the Selma Crisis of 1965.

In 1966, Imam Jamil organized for black voter registration and enforcement of the Voting Rights Act in Alabama. He continued Stokely Carmichael’s support for Black Power in 1967 wherein he toured the nation calling for the black community to organize and was heavily involved in the fight against Jim Crow Segregation. He is part of the historic foundation of the modern Black Lives Matter Movement.

He later embraced Islam, adopted the name Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, became the imam and leader of the West End Masjid in Atlanta, and established a community that helped clean up the local neighborhood, creating a vibrant oasis that continues to exist today. He also laid the foundation for many current national Muslim organizations.

As a result of his contributions, Imam Jamil was a top target of COINTELPRO, a “series of covert and illegal projects aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations, including the Black Panther Party.” See Rush, Cohen, Lee Convene Virtual Forum Examining FBI’s COINTELPRO Operation.

Ultimately, this targeting of the Imam led to his wrongful arrest, conviction and incarceration for a crime he did not commit: the homicide of a law enforcement officer in Atlanta.

In the 21 years since his arrest, Imam Jamil has been far removed from family, given limited access to his legal team, been medically neglected to the extent that he is now blind, had several of his Constitutional Rights violated both during his trial and in his treatment while incarcerated. Imam Jamil has been left to be tortured and subjected to cruel and unusual punishment for the past 21 years while we essentially have forgotten him. He is now 77-years-old and in an extremely fragile medical condition. If we were outraged about the killing of Fred Hampton, we should be outraged by the wrongful life imprisonment of Imam Jamil Al-Amin. Here’s what you need to know about the state of his case, and what you can do to help. Wrongful Conviction Imam Jamil Al-Amin is serving a life sentence for a crime he did not commit. Otis Jackson has consistently confessed to the crime for which Imam Jamil has now been imprisoned for twenty-one years. The State of Georgia has failed to thoroughly investigate the sworn confessions of Otis Jackson for which there is extensive corroborating evidence.

Several other injustices occurred during the trial including, but not limited to:

1) Otis Jackson never took the stand because the defense attorneys were told that he was not competent enough to testify. Since then, he has been declared competent. This includes testimony that:

a. Otis Jackson meets the physical description given by the officers which was that the assailant was 5’9 with cold grey eyes and they were certain he had been shot (Imam Jamil is 6’5 with Brown eyes and he was detained without any bullet wounds); b. Otis Jackson has the bullet wounds from the night of the incident; c. Otis Jackson’s ankle monitor failed the day of the incident.

2) The defense attorneys were not permitted to question FBI agent Campbell who has a history of planting fingerprintless guns after shooting a suspect in the head. He is the only person who can establish a complete chain of custody for the evidence in this case as he was the only agent present at both the crime scene and the arrest site. FBI records disclosed after the trial revealed a hand-written note wherein Sergeant Rogers (who testified in trial) stated in a prior interview that he felt that the pistol had been placed at the scene. Unfortunately, this note was not available during the trial to be used during cross examination.

3) Bernadette Davy, the firearms examiner in this case, was later fired from the State for breaching protocol when examining evidence in her cases resulting in faulty results and analysis.

4) Imam Jamil exercised his right not to testify at trial at the request of his attorneys. Instead of honoring his wishes, the State conducted an impromptu mock cross examination of Imam Jamil where they asked him questions and then hypothetically answered them for the jury during closing arguments in violation of his Fifth Amendment right. At least one juror has stated that he was convicted as a direct result of Imam Jamil not testifying, which the prosecutor improperly highlighted in his mock cross-examination. Execution through Medical Neglect/Complaint for Equitable Relief Although Imam Jamil is a Georgia State prisoner, he has been held in federal custody for over nineteen years in some of this nation’s worst prisons, including the Supermax Prison in Florence, Colorado. He is currently being held in USP Tucson, Arizona where the Federal Bureau of Prisons continues to allow egregious medical neglect to the extent that he has been intentionally blinded in both eyes. Since 2018, his medical records indicate a severe need for cataract surgery which was intentionally left untreated. Although Imam Jamil was found to need a Level 4 facility to meet his medical needs, the federal prison placed him in a level 3 facility. A Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Equitable Relief Pursuant to the Eighth Amendment has been filed in the United States District Court of Arizona demanding that Imam Jamil receive the necessary cataract surgery such that he may regain his vision. The prison is violating Imam Jamil’s Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by denying him vision saving medical treatment. The standard for determining whether there is an Eighth Amendment violation is whether the inmate had a serious medical need and whether the prison officials demonstrated a deliberate indifference. Colwell v. Bannister, 763 F.3d 1060, 1067–1068 (9th Cir. 2014). There is little doubt that prison officials knew or should have known about his rapidly deteriorating condition and were deliberately indifferent to providing him timely medical treatment. This case is still pending. (Case filed by Perkins, Coie, LLP and the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America as Co-Counsel) Fulton County Conviction Integrity Unit Imam Jamil’s case is actively under review by the Fulton County Conviction Integrity Unit which was created to “conduct collaborative, good-faith case reviews designed to ensure the integrity of a conviction and remedy wrongful convictions, as well as establish policies and procedures to learn from the errors identified so the criminal justice system is strengthened.” The CIU has the power to 1) recommend a sentencing reduction; 2) recommend a new trial; or 3) completely exonerate Imam Jamil and free him. Newly elected Fulton County District Attorney Fanni Willis has confirmed that the case is actively being reviewed; however, the process has been challenging in that Imam Jamil is being held in Tucson, Arizona, and the ICU does not have direct access to him. In addition, Otis Jackson is incarcerated in Virginia creating yet another challenge for the review process. State Appeal On appeal, the Georgia Supreme Court held that Georgia does not allow a “cumulative error rule of prejudice” in summarily rejecting Imam Jamil’s cumulative prejudice claim. Al-Amin v. State, 278 Ga. 74 at 87, 597 S.W 2d at 347 (2004). The initial state habeas court followed this decision. However, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal acknowledged prosecutorial misconduct and specifically stated "We regret that we cannot provide Mr. Al-Amin relief in the face of the prosecutorial misconduct that occurred at his trial. A prosecutor’s duty in a criminal proceeding is not to secure a conviction by any means, but to ensure that justice will prevail. See Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78, 88 (1935). The prosecutor at Al-Amin’s trial failed to live up to that duty."

Since then, the Georgia Supreme Court changed the law, overturning the rule against considering the cumulative prejudice. State v. Lane, 2020 WL 609615 at 3 (Ga. Feb. 10, 2020). In changing that law, the Georgia Supreme Court expressly overruled the portion of Al-Amin v. State where the Court summarily denied Imam Jamil’s cumulative error appeal. See Memorandum in Support of the Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Under O.C.G.A. § 9-14-51 at 43.

A Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Under O.C.G.A. § 9-14-51 is pending in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia, Civil Action No. HC00999. (Filed by Kilpatrick, Townsend, & Stockton, LLP). Gag Order and Need for Transfer Upon his conviction, it was said that Imam Jamil will die in prison having been forgotten. During the trial there was an official gag order; however, since then, the prison system has denied the press, historians, etc. any access to Imam Jamil such that his place in history would not be documented. Imam Jamil played a critical role in this country’s Civil Rights Movement and was dedicated his entire life thereafter to be an advocate for human justice. The system, as an extension of COINTELPRO, is erasing his legacy and dehumanizing him through a consistent violation of several constitutional rights. Imam Jamil must be returned to the State of Georgia where he can live out the rest of his years close to his family, where he can have access to adequate legal representation, where he can receive proper medical treatment, and where he can interact with the Conviction Integrity Unit that is now reviewing his case.

On Aug. 15th at 5:00 pm, activists and organizations plan to rally in front of the United States Penitentiary in Tucson, Arizona to demand action. Stand with us to help heal, exonerate and free Imam Jamil Al-Amin.

Maha ElKolalli is an attorney and the founder of the Law Office of Maha A. ELkolalli, P.L.. She is currently on the legal team for Imam Jamil El-Amin. CITATIONS: Students for Imam Jamil via email at | 713-363-4410 Counsel for Imam Jamil Al-Amin via email at | 954-599-6329 WEBSITES: Case Information Action Items (Updated often so please check frequently for new action items) FOLLOW: @_Freeimamjamil on Instagram Students for Imam Jamil on Facebook BOOKS: Revolution By the Book: The Rap is Live by Imam Jamil Al-Amin The Imprisonment of Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin by Mauri Saalakhan

H.R.2998, Introduced by Representative Bobby Rush – On May 4, 2021, Representative Bobby Rush introduced H.R. 2998, The COINTELPRO Full Disclosure Act, to the House “to require the public disclosure of COINTELPRO records, to establish a COINTELPRO Records Collection, and to establish the COINTELPRO Records Review Board, and for other purposes.” The disclosure of the COINTELPRO documents in their entirety can fully reveal the extent to which Imam Jamil was targeted and ultimately assist in the gathering of further evidence in support of freeing him and other political prisoners.

Any opinions expressed in articles published by The Muslim Legal Journal represent only the views of each writer. Such opinions are not meant to represent the views of the writer's employer or the National Association of Muslim Lawyers (NAML).

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