Murray Kempton The Briar Patch

ISBN 13: 9780306807992

The Briar Patch

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9780306807992: The Briar Patch

On April 2, 1969, New York policemen, armed with shotguns and wearing bulletproof vests, rounded up members of the Black Panther party. Thirteen of 21 suspects were then charged and tried for attempted arson, attempted murder, and conspiracies to blow up various police stations, school buildings, a railroad yard, and the Bronx Botanical Gardens. But the forces of "law and order" behaved in a decidedly less lawful manner than the defendants. This text examines the proceedings, illuminating not only the story of the Panther 21 but the quality of justice in America.

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Review:

Originally published nearly 25 years ago, The Briar Patch is the account of the arrest of 18 members of the Black Panther Party in April 1969 and the subsequent trial of 13 of them. (Indictments were originally returned against 21 Panthers--hence the subtitle of the book--but not all went to court.) The Panthers were charged with conspiracy to kill several police officers and to destroy a number of buildings, including four police stations, five department stores, and the Bronx Botanical Gardens. All were held on $100,000 bail, even though several white radicals arrested later for bombings that had actually been committed were released on far less bail. The march through the justice system took about two years, but all of the defendants were finally acquitted. In prose both wry and magisterial, Murray Kempton, a columnist for Newsday before his death, shows the fallacies (and racism) inherent in the government's case. One sample: much of the case was based on the testimony of an informer who had been diagnosed by several psychiatrists as a pathological liar and a paranoid schizophrenic.

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