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WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT
The trial is over and the jury has gone home. After 13 weeks of confusing testimony, over-zealous prosecution and contradictory defense, twelve Mexican-American boys have been held guilty of a single alleged murder, five of alleged assault charges, and five others acquitted.
But the case isn't over, And the Citizens' Defense Committee hasn't gone home.
For Justice didn't happen in Judge Charles Fricke's court, despite the smug complacency of Prosecutors Shoemaker and Barnes. Not only was the trial grimy with prejudice, inside and outside the courtroom, but no real evidence whatsoever of any guilt was ever established.
The convictions were obtained upon evidence almost wholly circumstantial and hearsay, much of it from "confessions" and "admissions" plainly gotten through beatings and terror by the notorious Los Angeles Police and sheriff's offices now under fire for brutality.
Not one convicning thread of facts was presented to connect any of the defendants with the killing of Jose Diaz, nor with the stabbing or felonious assault of anyone.
On the contrary, evidence introduced by the prosecution, apart from defense arguments, clearly proves all the 22 boys innocent of murder and assault.
Here are some of the significant facts revealed by prosecution evidence:
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That on the night of the alleged murder of Diaz there was a dizzy drinking party, attended by the complaining witnesses, at the Williams Ranch;
That long before the 22 defendants arrived at the scene, a quarrel had developed among the roisterers which ended in a serious fight;
That this brawl was probably the occasion during which Jose Diaz was originally injured, that he fell int the roadway overcome by beating and drinking, and that some time after this he was run over by a car backed against his head, causing his death from fracture;
The all this occurred previous to the "crashing" of the party by the 22 defendants out on an ordinary Saturday night joyride;
That when the 22 boys arrived the were attacked by persons from the ranch-house, in the confusion of a fight already in progress, and that the owner of the ranch, without waiting for explanation, pulled a knife or razor and joined in the attack upon the newcomers;
And that the evasiveness of the complaining witnesses may point to their own responsibility for the death of Diaz, from which follows a desire to pin the crime on someone else.
Yet these vital facts, attesting so eloquently to the complete innocence of the 22 defendants, were so buried in a crazy-quilt of distortion, calumny and hearsay that the bewildered jury was misled in to verdicts of cruel injustice.
What came through to the twelve judging minds, instead, was an impression of "gangs" and "goons" and "zoot suit hoodlums" — despite absolute lack of proof that these lads
― 3 ―had ever participated in any group violence, rioting or criminal conspiracies.
These impressions, although abetted and deepened by the calloused prosecutors, were undoubtedly created before the trial began. For months the sensational Los Angeles press had been building a "Crime wave" among Mexican-American juveniles — a myth fabricated for the delight of circulation managers and denied by all official statistics.
Further, these impressions were projected against an ancient campaign of bigotry and persecution of an entire people, the Mexican-Americans of California, a half million decent citizens long leashed in "second-class" status by profiteers of labor and an indifferent public.
More recently, also, the situation has worsened through the rabid activities of Fifth Columnists anxious to impede the war drive by splitting off a highly productive section of the population from the main body of unity.
Small wonder, then, that these twelve men and women approached impanelment with a fixed notion that "Mexican" was synonymous with criminality. And that they were very susceptible to evidence "proving" one more instance of it.
The effect of these convictions, like the effect of the long series of mass arrests, persecutions and police brutalities against the Mexican-American people, may have very serious consequences. Unity for all-out production and military aggression may be badly impaired; mistreatment of minorities is an Achilles' heel vulnerable to all manner of Axis insinuation.
― 4 ―And because Mexicans in the United States offer a testing-group for the sincerity of American attitude towards Latins to the South, hemispheric solidarity falls in jeopardy.
The federal government, through the War Manpower Commission and the Office of Inter-American Affairs, has frequently expressed its anxiety about this case and the deplorable situation it symbolizes.
It is mandatory upon the citizenry of Los Angeles to prevent a few newspapers, a few score police sadists, a pair of ambitious prosecutors and the Fifth Column to cancel out the fine harmony between peoples and nations so diligently being woven in the course of a democratic war.
The Citizens' Committee for the Defense of American-Mexican Youth, composed of leading members of the community, has long been dedicated to this harmony, the elimination of these crippling injustices.
First on this program is the continued defense of the 17 Mexican-American boys just condemned, a marshalling of every reasonable assistance to prepare for an appeal along the lines maintained by Attorneys George E. Shibley and Dan Van Tress.
Simultaneously the Committee intends to seek to enlist support from all organizations of the people — unions, churches, clubs and all citizens of good will — for the purging of the poisons of prejudice and discrimination from the air of Los Angeles.