A Political Fugitive: The Case of Little Rock Reed (a Story of Due Process the American Way)

Article excerpt

THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE FROM DIFFERENT WALKS OF LIFE HAVE OVER THE PAST decade become familiar with the name Little Rock Reed, an American Indian activist and writer who had spent many years in a maximum-security prison because of his advocacy for prisoners' rights and the rights of American Indians. Few of those people, however, are aware that over the past several months, Little Rock has been forced underground and is now a political fugitive. As a personal friend and as an attorney working with him on behalf of the Aboriginal Ute Nation, I am impelled to write about his personal circumstances, which continue to impede the progress of our work.

On July 5, 1993, several well-known and highly regarded social scientists and attorneys(1) submitted a petition for clemency/pardon to George Voinovich, governor of Ohio, on Little Rock's behalf. In their petition, they stated:

After having carefully reviewed the enclosed "Statement of Facts Regarding Little Rock (a.k.a. Timothy) Reed's Situation with the Ohio Adult Parole Authority" and supporting documentation attached thereto, it is our informed opinion that Little Rock Reed, an articulate human rights advocate for American Indians and prisoners, has been made to serve many years in Ohio's maximum-security prison solely and expressly because of his legitimate and peaceful activism.

In our opinion, the enclosed evidence indicates that because Little Rock Reed, while on parole, was exposing civil and criminal violations, which have been and continue to be committed by the Ohio Adult Parole Authority (APA), the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction, and other agencies that have influence with the APA, the APA intends to use its power to place Little Rock back in prison for up to fifteen more years to silence his voice. In fact, the evidence is so overwhelming that on June 4, 1993, after reviewing only a very small portion of |Little Rock's sworn affidavit and supporting documents~, a Kenton County, Kentucky, judge |acknowledged~ that Little Rock's life is |indeed~ in danger due to the fact that the APA has plans to politically imprison -- and very possibly to politically assassinate -- Little Rock if and when he comes out of hiding....

The petitioners also told Governor Voinovich that even though under Ohio law petitions for clemency or pardon are to be submitted to the APA for their review and recommendation, "in light of the APA's apparent conflict of interest in this particular case, such procedure would be entirely inappropriate" and "would preclude Little Rock from being given real consideration for pardon or clemency."

Notwithstanding the above, on July 28, 1993, Governor Voinovich forwarded the petition to the APA for their recommendation. On July 30, 1993, the Ohio Parole Board denied the petition, stating that it will be given no consideration until Little Rock is back in the APA's custody.

For those of us familiar with the facts set out in the petition, the Ohio Parole Board's response is appalling. Little Rock's affidavit, which is reproduced below, speaks for itself:(2)

1. I was convicted for aggravated robbery and sentenced to 7-to-25 years in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC). My sentence began in May of 1982.

2. Under Ohio law, I became eligible for parole after less than four and one-half years. Accordingly, I appeared before the parole board in 1986. Because I was serving a 180-day term in solitary confinement for having committed the offense of going on a hunger strike to protest the ODRC's refusal to recognize and respect the religious rights of American Indian prisoners, I was brought before the parole board clad in handcuffs and |shackles~. The members of the parole board stated to me then that if I were released on parole I could practice my traditional religious beliefs, the implication clearly being that if I were to drop the religious issue and impending lawsuit against the prison officials for religious deprivations, I would be granted a parole. …