A history of the "Virgin Island Five", a group of activists accused of murdering eight people in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The murders took place during a turbulent period of rebellion on the Islands.
During the 1970's, as with much of the world, a movement to resist colonial rule began to grow in the U.S. occupied Virgin Islands. From 1971 to 1973, there was a small scale Mau Mau rebellion taking place on the islands. This activity was downplayed by the media, for fear it would damage the tourist industry, which the island's survival depends on.
Then on September 6th, 1972, eight American tourists were gunned down at the Rockefeller-owned golf course on the island of St.Croix. Quickly the colonial authorities picked up over one hundred blacks for interrogations, and the U.S. colonial troops carried out a series of repressive acts of violence against the black community. The F.B.I. and the United States Army troops led a 300-man invasion force into the islands and used strong armed tactics to conduct house to house searches of the low income areas.
The island was put under virtual martial law, and eventually five men who Ismail Ali, Warren (Aziz) Ballantine, Meral (Malik) Smith, Raphael (Kwesi) Joseph, and Hanif Shabazz Bey were apprehended and then charged with the attack. All the men were known supporters of the Virgin Island independence movement.
The five were charged after being subjected to vicious torture, in order to extract confessions. They were beaten, hung from their feet and necks from trees, subject to electric shocks with "cattle prods", had plastic bags tied over their heads and had water forced up their noses by the "defenders of the law." The judge (Warren Young) overlooking the case prior to being placed on the federal bench worked as Rockefeller's private attorney and and even handled legal matters for the Fountain Valley Golf Course.
Eventually, the five went to trial in what became known as the "Fountain Valley" murder trial. This was an obvious Kangaroo Court and a mockery of any sense of a fair trial. On August 13, 1973, each of the five men convicted and sentenced to eight(8) consecutive life terms.
A look at the incredible conduct of the trial will tell anyone why:
--- The court refused to excuse juror member Laura Torres, former wife of detective Jorge Torres, one of the arresting officers.
--- Nine jurors testified that during the deliberations they were threatened with F.B.I. investigations on themselves and members of their families, and also threats of prosecution.
--- The jury deliberated for nine days, and told the judge that they were "hopelessly deadlocked", yet he still refused to dismiss them and call a mistrial which worked to compel a guilty verdict.
--- Four jurors, including the jury foreman, signed statements that they had been forced into a guilty verdict by the judge, police, and F.B.I.. One juror who's daughter was charged with bank robbery several years before, was told that those charges could be brought up again if she did not find the accused guilty.
--- The court refused to throw out the "fake confessions", even after it was proven that they were obtained through torture.
--- Even the Assistant District Attorney Joel Sacks and several police officers testified and admitted that they knew the dependents had been tortured, and that the "confessions" extracted had been obtained by such methods.
Today, Warren (Aziz) Ballantine, Meral (Malik) Smith, and Hanif Shabazz Bey are all confined in federal prisons. Ismail Ali was liberated to Cuba via an airplane hijacking in 1984. Raphael (Kwesi) Joseph was granted a pardon by the V.I. governor in 1992. Six years later Kwesi was mysteriously found dead of poison-laced drug overdose, after it was said that he was about to reveal evidence that would have exonerated at least one or more defendant.