George Pumphrey, Berlin, Germany
October 23, 2011
When news broke that, at the request of the US government, Portugal had
arrested George Wright (Jose Luis Jorge dos Santos), a Portuguese citizen,
for consideration of his extradition to the United States for having
escaped prison, there was an air of the spectacular in the news articles.
The accent in many articles was on the arrest of a "convicted murderer,"
who had been a fugitive for 40 years.
George Wright had escaped from the Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, N.J.,
in 1970, where he had served more than seven years of a 15 – 30 year prison
sentence for murder.
It was also reported – almost in passing – that Wright and four other
Afro-Americans had hijacked a Delta Airlines jet from the US to Algeria in
1972 with a ransom of $1 million destined to the foreign section of the
Black Panther Party located in Algeria.
But the demand for his extradition is allegedly merely to return Wright to
prison to "finish his time."
Back to the Source
Some of the earlier articles had referred to Wright being a "convicted
murderer." Some European journals understandably believe this to mean that
George Wright had taken someone's life – "understandable," that is, when
one considers the source of this information.
FBI Special Agent, Bryan L. Travers, announcing Wrights arrest, wrote in
his press release (September 27, 2011) that
"On November 23, 1962, George Wright and three associates were involved in
the commission of multiple armed robberies. During the second of these
robberies, Wright and an associate shot and killed Walter Patterson, a
World War II veteran and Bronze Star recipient, during the robbery of the
Collingswood Esso gas station in Wall, New Jersey." <#_ftn1>
The FBI special agent then explains:
Wright was arrested two days later and was indicted on state charges along
with his associates on December 13, 1962. On February 15, 1963, Wright
entered a plea of “no defense” to the charge of murder. Wright was
subsequently sentenced to 15 to 30 years’ incarceration. <#_ftn2>
For European journalists, unfamiliar with the US penal system, a
translation of the background to these allegations may prove useful.
Is George Wright a Murderer?
Special Agent Travers writes that "Wright AND an associate shot and killed
Walter Patterson," while press reports from New Jersey – where Special
Agent Travers is stationed – and elsewhere tell a different story about the
"One of [the robbers], Walter McGhee, had a revolver, according to police
records. McGhee fired two shots at Patterson and ran off with $70. (...)
McGhee was sentenced to life in prison. Wright, as one of the holdup men,
was also charged with murder. He changed his plea from innocent to no
defense to evade a jury trial that could have resulted in the death penalty
if he were found guilty, according to news accounts. Wright, at age 19, was
sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison, where he served time until his
escape in 1970." <#_ftn3>
And another journalist adds more details:
Wright, armed with a sawed-off 22- caliber rifle, and McGhee, armed with a
32-caliber pistol, were both wearing women’s pantyhose over their faces
when they assaulted Patterson and fired at least one shot during the
robbery. Patterson was shot once in the abdomen before the four got away
with $70 in cash. Police later determined it was a shot from McGhee’s
pistol that led to Patterson’s death. <#_ftn4>
It must have been clear – even to the FBI – that though Wright had
participated in the holdup and that though Wright had been armed, it was
not Wright, but McGhee, who was the murderer. The FBI certainly had access
to the same police records as the journalists quoted above. Nevertheless,
the FBI deliberately falsified its version of events to make George Wright
There is a second aspect that may be particularly alien to Europeans about
the US system. George Wright was "convicted" of a murder that police,
prosecutor and judge all knew he was innocent of. Whereas the FBI press
release merely states "Wright entered a plea of 'no defense' to the charge
of murder," the journalists quoted above say why.
McGhee, the actual killer, was sentenced to life in prison. Nevertheless,
Wright, charged with the murder, everyone knew he had not committed, was
forced to change his plea from "innocent" to "no defense," thereby waiving
his right to a trial by jury. It was clear that if he was found guilty in
that trial, he would have received the death penalty for a crime everyone
knew him to be innocent of.
(September 21, 2011, despite pleas for clemency from around the world,
including the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the Pope, the
state of Georgia executed Troy Anthony Davis for a murder it was evident he
had not committed. Seven of the nine witnesses against him retracted and
recanted their testimonies before the court, declaring in written
statements that they had been pressured by police and prosecution to lie in
court accusing Davis of murder. One of the 2 witnesses who has not recanted
is believed to be the actual murderer. The US Supreme Court refused to
allow the new evidence of Davis' innocence to be admitted, which would have
resulted not only in the liberation of Davis but in a new trial. This could
have also been the fate of George Wright.)
Where is the justice?
Under US law, if a more grave crime occurs – for example murder – in the
course of the commission of a lesser crime – in this case robbery – the
participants committing the lesser crime can also be charged with the
graver crime, even though it is clear that, another had actually committed
Following his arrest, George Wright, having no means to hire his own
lawyer, had to therefore rely on the services of a court appointed lawyer.
These are usually inexperienced, underpaid by the court and disinterested
in cases that will do little to further their careers.
The prosecutor, who then put Wright under pressure to obtain another rapid
conviction for a serious crime, additionally charged Wright with this
murder. Wright insisted on his innocence, which meant he had a right to a
jury trial. However, jury trials cost the state money and the prosecution
would be forced to prepare his case. The court appointed defense lawyer
would also lose time on a non-paying client, time (s)he would rather spend
on a high-profile or, at least, a better paying case. So not being
interested in going to trial, the court appointed lawyer would advise
his/her client to take a "plea bargain", meaning one of the versions of not
contesting the charges, so that a guilty verdict can be pronounced by the
judge, without having to go through the normal trial procedure. Wright
pleaded that he was making "no defense" against the charges against him.
Allen N. Cowling, a private investigator specializing in cases of persons
falsely charged with crimes, explains, that "although a plea [bargain] has
many names; nolo contendere, (no contest) or an Alford, (no admission of
guilt), regardless of what it is called, it is still an admission of guilt
by an accused to an offense that they may not have committed." <#_ftn5>
A "plea bargain" is an official extortion of a "guilty" plea from a
defendant, regardless of his innocence, in exchange for a promised – but
not always held – specific sentence.
The case of George Wright is a good example of how this works. Wright was
probably threatened that if he insisted on pleading innocent – meaning that
a jury would have to determine his guilt for murder – then he would have
the entire system against him. Not only the prosecution and judge – for
forcing them to take the "long road" to a conviction – but even his
"defense" lawyer would be against him. Wright's insistence on his right to
justice would have cost his defense lawyer precious time and therefore
money with a non-paying client. It is the latter that is most important
because (s)he is in a position to take revenge and sabotage his chances to
be objectively heard by the jury. Therefore, it would have been almost
certain that he would be convicted of a crime he had not committed.
Paul Craig Roberts, <#_ftn6> explains:
"In the US the wrongful conviction rate is extremely high. One reason is
that hardly any of the convicted have had a jury trial. No peers have heard
the evidence against them and found them guilty. In the US criminal justice
(sic) system, more than 95% of all felony cases are settled with a plea
"Before jumping to the conclusion that an innocent person would not admit
guilt, be aware of how the process works. Any defendant who stands trial
faces more severe penalties, if found guilty, than if he agrees to a plea
bargain. Prosecutors don’t like trials because they are time consuming and
a lot of work. To discourage trials, prosecutors offer defendants reduced
charges and lighter sentences than would result from a jury conviction. In
the event a defendant insists upon his innocence, prosecutors pile on
charges until the defendant’s lawyer and family convince the defendant that
a jury is likely to give the prosecutor a conviction on at least one of the
many charges and that the penalty will be greater than a negotiated plea."
In principle, more than 95% of the inmates in US prisons are innocent,
simply because their guilt has not been proven – beyond a reasonable doubt
– in a trial. A plea of guilty – regardless of guilt or innocence – had
been extorted from them.
The theory behind plea-bargaining is "the confession of the defendant is
considered solving the conflict and rendering the judicial procedure
(particularly the analysis of the evidence) superfluous. This is why as
soon as there is a confession, the judge pronounces the
"There is one snag in the whole plea-bargaining deal: once you plead
guilty, you cannot appeal your case or change your plea to not guilty. This
is another way that the American judicial system accounts for its high
percentage of Blacks in prison." <#_ftn9>
Plea bargaining has robbed the US criminal justice system of its middle
name. With plea bargaining, the question of guilt and innocence – the
prerequisite for justice – play no longer a role. Through the plea
bargaining technique, the government mass-produces convictions, most of
which are Black, Hispanic and poor, sending them to prison, without ever
having had the benefit of a trial, "because it is obvious that they are
guilty. They pled guilty, didn't they?" is the reasoning usually given.
On the other hand, official propaganda, as the FBI shows above, can conjure
up a "murderer" by constantly pointing to his "conviction."
This is how George Wright became the "convicted murderer" without having
committed the crime.
 <#_ftnref1> Travers, Bryan L., International Fugitive Captured After
More Than 40 Years, FBI Newark September 27, 2011
 <#_ftnref2> ibid
 <#_ftnref3> Grant, Jason, "A fugitive's quiet life in Portugal:
Seaside village, friendly neighbors," The Star-Ledger, September 29, 2011,
also: Ferreira, Leonardo, Após 40 anos, fugitivo norte-americano de
New Jersey é preso em Portugal, Brazilian Voice, 06/10/2011,
 <#_ftnref4> Webster, Charles, "A promise made, a promise kept" Asbury
Park Press, Oct. 1, 2011,
 <#_ftnref5> Cowling, Allen N., "Falsely Accused and Plea Bargains,"
 <#_ftnref6> Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the
Treasury in the Reagan administration, Associate Editor of the Wall Street
Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review.
 <#_ftnref7> Roberts, Paul Craig, "America’s Injustice System Is
Criminal," December 12, 2006,
 <#_ftnref8> Nikiforov, Boris, "Etat Actuel de la Justice aux Etats
Unis," ed. Revue Trimestrielle de la section des Sciences Sociales de
l'Academie des Sciences de l'URSS, Nr. 4, (34) 1978, pg. 221
 <#_ftnref9> Brown, George, Nous Noirs Americains, Evadés du Ghetto,
Seuil, Paris, pg. 217 – 218
Thursday, January 26, 2012
George Pumphrey, Berlin, Germany