Zolo Agona Azania is a Black revolutionary who has spent twenty six years – most of his adult life – in prison, and much of it on death row. His death sentence has been overturned not once, but twice, and yet a recent legal decision gives the State a green light to seek it a third time, and this despite the fact that many key witnesses have died and evidence that could help the defense has been “lost” over the past decades.
In 1981, at the age of 21, Zolo Agona Azania was convicted of murdering a police officer during a bank robbery gone bad. Unlike his two co-defendants, Zolo was arrested unarmed, walking down the street miles from the scene of the robbery, and has always maintained his total innocence of any involvement in the crime.
Yet it was Zolo who was singled out as the triggerman who killed a police officer “execution style,” and who received a death sentence… while the two men who were caught in the getaway car with weapons received prison sentences.
What explains this discrepance is the fact that Zolo was the only one of the accused who was a political activist, who had his picture in the paper as a model for rehabilitation, and whohad an African-sounding name and look. While the men who were caught red handed had close family members on the police force. (For more on Zolo’s case, and the various violations of his legal rights which led to the death penalty being overturned twice already, see this posting i wrote about his case last year.)
Here is the press release from the No Death Penalty for Zolo Committee:
No Death Penalty for Zolo!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 15, 2007
CONTACT: Howard Emmer 773-425-6716
Indiana Supreme Court in a 3 to 2 decision allows the State of Indiana to seek the death penalty For the third time in the case of Zolo Agona Azania.
Indianapolis —— On Thursday. May 10, 2007 the Indiana Supreme Court reversed Boone County Superior Court Judge Steve David’s ruling that barred the state of Indiana from pursuing the death penalty in the case of Zolo Azania. Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter appealed Judge David’s ruling and that resulted in oral arguments before the Indiana Supreme Court on June 27th, 2006. Zolo, who was convicted of murder in 1982 has spent the last 26 years in Indiana prisons, most of that time on death row. Twice the state has had Zolo’s death penalty verdict overturned by the Indiana Supreme Court due to: prosecution’s suppression of evidence favorable to the defendant, ineffective assistance of counsel, and systematic exclusion of African Americans from the jury pool.
In Judge David’s ruling, he argued that the state could not seek the death penalty against Zolo a third time because of the length of time that had passed since the crime was committed (24 years at that time), and that the delay was caused primarily by the state. Many of the witnesses, material and character, are now deceased and much of the evidence is either missing or destroyed. David also found that a jury at a third sentencing trial would be unduly focused on the “future dangerousness” of the convicted, depriving Zolo of an unprejudiced decision by the jury. Judge David concluded that society’s interest would be best served by barring the state from a third death sentence.
The majority opinion, written by Justice Sullivan and supported by Chief Justice Shepard and Justice Dickson, tries to blame Zolo Azania for the 25 year delay by having the audacity to file appeals to his conviction and death sentence which ultimately exposed mistakes and misconduct by the prosecution in his trials. As stated above, it was this same Indiana Supreme Court that found there was just cause for these appeals. To now blame Zolo for the delays caused by pursuing them is tantamount to blaming the victim.
Justices Boehm and Rucker both wrote dissenting opinions supporting Judge David’s ruling. In his dissenting opinion Justice Boehm found the majority opinion’s arguments for attributing the delays to Zolo as “both novel and indefensible”. Justice Rucker was troubled by the inordinate delay (25 yrs plus) affecting Zolo’s ability to produce character witnesses and cross examine state witnesses.
The state of Indiana has already convicted and held Zolo for over 25 years for a crime in which he has always maintained his innocence, It is only fair that it drops its pursuit of the death penalty that is cruel, inhuman, racist and has no place being used in a civilized society.
Zolo’s lawyers are considering a petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.
More information about Zobo’s case can be obtained at www.Zoloazania.org
e-mail: Mdeutsch45 [at] aol.com