BY JOHN STUDER
CHICAGO - Manuel Salazar walked out of prison November 8, free for the first time in 11 years. Salazar, now 30 years old, had been convicted in 1985 of murder in the death of a Joliet, Illinois, cop and sentenced to death. Since then he has been held in a six-by-nine-foot cell on death row.
An international defense campaign was organized to fight to win Salazar a new trial and to press for his release. The defense committee distributed flyers, organized rallies, and raised funds for legal appeals.
In 1984, Salazar, a dual citizen of Mexico and the United States, was cornered in an alley and beaten by officer Martin Murrin. Salazar fought for his life and in the struggle the cop was shot to death. According to literature from Salazar's defense committee, Joliet police put out a "shoot to kill" order on the young man, and he fled to Mexico.
The following year, Salazar was seized from his relatives' home in Mexico and kidnapped to the United States. The kidnappers turned him over to police in Texas, who - without any extradition procedure - gave him over to cops from Illinois. He was taken back to stand trial on charges of murder. Salazar was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to death.
His fight for freedom won broad support. More than 500 people traveled from the Chicago/Joliet area to the Illinois capitol in Springfield to support him when the state Supreme Court heard arguments on his petition for a new trial. The government of Mexico formally protested his illegal seizure from Mexican territory.
In 1994, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Salazar's lawyer had failed to represent him adequately at his trial, and ordered a new trial. Supporters traveled to the trial on a daily basis. A defense rally was held October 29 outside the Will County Court House where the new trial was taking place.
"Manuel Salazar is now a symbol for all our youth that have found themselves abused by the police," Emma Lozano, a leader of Pueblo Sin Fronteras in Chicago, told the rally. "Freedom for Manuel will send a message to police who are racist and abuse their authority, that this will no longer be tolerated. Manuel does not stand trial alone, we stand with him for our future with his life at stake."
Frank Forrestal, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate from Illinois, issued a statement during the trial urging support for Salazar. "Manuel Salazar is the victim of a racist police frame-up and should be freed now," Forrestal said. The socialist campaign urged activists to attend the trial and support Salazar's fight.
The new trial took place shortly after tens of thousands of supporters of Mexican and Chicano rights marched on Washington D.C. October 12.
In addition, a number of Black and Puerto Rican victims of police frame-ups on death row in Illinois have been proven innocent and won their freedom in highly publicized cases.
On November 7, the new jury found Salazar not guilty of
murder. He was convicted of a charge of involuntary
manslaughter, but has already served more than the maximum
sentence for that charge. He was released from prison the next
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