The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Prisoner seeks re-trial in death sentence

Apr 2, 2001

(The following information was sent to us by the Campaign for Zolo A. Azania in Chicago.)

An evidentiary hearing challenging Zolo A. Azania's conviction for murder and his sentence to death took place in Fort Wayne, Indiana before Judge Kenneth Scheibenberger on March 13, 14 and 15.

One issue to be decided by the hearing is whether Zolo was denied a fair trial as a result of the false testimony of a crucial eye-witness, testimony knowingly put forth by the prosecutors in the 1982 trial. Almost 15 years after the trial, this key witness has testified under oath that he could not make an identification of Zolo and could not show where Zolo was sitting in the court room. This misconduct was part of a pattern of witness coercion, the use of false testimony and the suppression of favorable evidence which denied Zolo a fair trail and railroaded him to a death sentence.

The other issue was a jury selection system in Allen Country, Indiana which has been fatally flawed since 1980. As a result Zolo was denied, both in his trial in 1982 and in his death penalty retrial in 1996, a jury pool that represented a fair cross-section of Allen County. Specifically, a computer error caused under-representation of Wayne Township, where over 70% of the African- American population of the county resides.

As a result of this computer problem, which despite over 15 years of complaints about the lack of African-Americans summoned for jury service, has never been fixed to ensure it was working properly, Zolo was tried on two occasions by juries without any African-Americans. Rather than monitor and repair a jury selection process that wasn't working properly, county officials tried to cover up the flaws by destroying evidence and lying about the problem. This cover-up not only included jury officials but also judges of the court, one of whom now presides over Zolo's hearing and has refused to recuse himself, despite his clear conflict of interest.

The jury now has the case under advisement and is scheduled to rule by April 16, 2001.

Supporters are urged to write Judge Kenneth Scheibenberger, Allen County Superior Court, 715 South Calhoun Street, Ft. Wayne, Indiana 46802, urging him to remove himself from Zolo's case, or to grant Zolo a new trial.