In recent years, numerous instances of racial profiling, civil rights
violations and use of excessive police force have been investigated. We, the undersigned, urge you as Attorney General to open an investigation of the notorious Move 9 case and support their lawful release on parole.
On August 8th 1978, over 600 cops, K-9, ATF, FBI, and fire department personnel surrounded the Move house with deluged water cannons, tear gas, smoke bombs, grenades, semi automatic weapons, a crane, bulldozers, and even a tank. The police opened fire on the Move house (while knowing there were children inside). Officer James Ramp and several others were injured. All Move members in the house were arraigned on charges of assault, attempted murder, and the murder of a police officer, even though Move's weapons were inoperable, and the trajectory of the bullet was fired towards Move's house. The house and physical evidence were destroyed in a controlled demolition within an hour after Move members were severely beaten and arrested.
Since 1999, two of the nine defendants died in prison infirmaries under suspicious circumstances. The remaining Move 9, sentenced to 30-100 years, have been in prison since 1978, for allegedly wounding and killing a police officer. Eligible for parole since 2008, they've met all parole eligibility requirements, have clean prison records, and receive positive parole recommendations from prison wardens, case managers, college professors, and worldwide civil rights supporters. Job and housing plans await them, as they have every intention of returning as productive members of society. Disturbingly, however, they have been denied parole on every appearance.
The case of the Move 9 is widely acknowledged as a racially charged incident. Despite substantial evidence of their innocence and the lengthy time served, they remain incarcerated. For this reason we call on the U.S. Attorney General to open a rigorous investigation into this case. We urge you to use your oversight to release the Move prisoners on parole, as they have served almost 40 years in prison. Their prosecution and parole denials are of a contested nature as noted below.
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Prosecutorial and Judicial misconduct:
-On August 8th 1978, Philadelphia officials destroyed physical evidence in a serious murder trial when they demolished the Move house despite standard legal procedure to protect the scene of the crime.
-The prosecution's witness Dr. Robert Catherman, Assistant Medical Examiner who performed the autopsy of Officer James Ramp, said at trial that Ramp's death was caused by a single gunshot wound to the upper left chest, below the collar bone. However, in the post mortem report, the wound was recorded as being on the right three times in the report. Shortly before the hearing, Knauer pencilled in a 'L' over the top of the word 'right,' creating a discrepancy pertaining to the entry wound and the course of the bullet that killed Ramp changing it from a direction that was not near the Move house to one that was closer.
-The police department was to investigate Ramp's death, a ballistics test was to be conducted by police personnel, and an autopsy by the city medical examiner as a result of the discrepancy of the medical report, however, the results were deemed inconclusive and incomplete.
-District Attorney Knauer tried to imply that the weapon that killed Ramp was supposedly confiscated from the Move house. It later came out in court that police had used the same type of weapons the day of the incident.
-Judge Edwin Malmed publicly stated that he did not have the faintest idea who killed officer James Ramp, but because Move is a family he convicted them as a family.
-Lynn Abraham, a judge who issued several arrest warrants for Move members, was appointed District Attorney in 1991 and denied the Move defendant's appeals. She served the first few years that Move members were considered for parole.
-Lynn Abraham was succeeded by Seth Williams in 2010. He has given a negative recommendation to the parole board despite the fact that as he was just a child in 1978 he has a limited understanding of the case.
Parole Board misconduct:
-The Move 9 have met all parole recommendations, including job and housing plans, as well as positive prison records, and recommendations from Wardens, Superintendents, and other DOC staff. The vast majority of those recommended are paroled, but not the Move 9.
-They've been repeatedly denied parole on reasons of “the nature of the crime” and the non admission of guilt. It is their right to maintain innocence and the Parole Board guidelines are to base decisions on prison records and recommendations, not the crime.
-Two previous members of the parole board, Randy Feathers and Lloyd White, are former cops, providing a conflict of interest in a case involving the murder of a police officer.
-Former police officer Pamela Grey currently sits on the newly appointed Parole Board, holding that same conflict of interest in this case.
-Parole Board member Michael L. Greene is the last remaining appointee of former Governor Ed Rendell. Rendell was the Philadelphia District Attorney in 1978, and worked with his assistants Wilhelm Knauer and John Straub to convict the Move 9. Ed Rendell appointees add significant bias and conflict of interest.
-The Parole Board has denied parole based on negative recommendations from the prosecuting attorney including a more than 30-year old letter from Assistant D.A. John Straus, who worked with Wilhelm Knauer, the prosecutor who tampered with critical evidence this case. The contents of this letter should not overshadow the large volume of positive letters recommending their release.