Many self-determining activists and freedom fighters were saddened by the heartbreaking news that the courageous attorney Lynne Stewart had passed onto the ancestral realm this past Tuesday at her Brooklyn home. She was 77 years of age.
She gained widespread notoriety throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s representing many people who dared to stand up against capitalism and oppression. She was a colleague of attorney William Kunstler, another left-wing attorney often described as a radical by the mainstream media. They represented violent, self-described revolutionaries and freedom fighters for little or no cost.
Her husband, Ralph Poynter, said her cause of death was complications from cancer and a series of strokes she recently suffered.
Stewart was granted a “compassionate release” from prison in January 2014 after her breast cancer had spread and doctors determined she had less than two years to live.
After being convicted in 2005, and after appeals, Stewart had been imprisoned since July 2010 on charges of “abetting terrorism” while representing her client, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric who was convicted in 1995 for plotting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing which killed six people. He died in prison last month, Feb. 18.
Initially sentenced to 28 months, it was later increased to 10 years after an appeals court ordered the trial judge, John G. Koeltl, to consider a longer term after Stewart boasted in court that she could do the 28 months “standing on my head.”
However, Stewart’s supporters maintain that she was hit with the harsher sentence because she helped urban folk hero Larry “Hood Hero” Davis be acquitted of the attempted murder charges stemming from his Nov. 19, 1986, Bronx shoot-out with a few dozen police in the Bronx.
“You don’t send over 30 police just to arrest one man,” Stewart explained during the 1988 trial. “They obviously were going there for something more.”
During a 1995 interview she noted, “The Davis case captured the feelings of the third-world community in the city because here’s a kid, whether you liked what he did or not, he stood up to the police” at a time when “a lot of Black people were being assaulted and murdered by the police.”
Also, some suggest she was targeted to discourage other lawyers from representing suspects accused of terrorism, revolutionaries and other radicals.
“I think that to rid ourselves of the entrenched voracious type of capitalism that is in this country that perpetuates sexism and racism, I don’t think that can come nonviolently,” she testified at her trial.
Throughout her law career Stewart represented members of the Black Panthers, Black Liberation Army, the Weather Underground and several others.
“Would I do it again?” she replied when asked if she had any regrets representing Rahman. “I would like to think I would if I was confronted with the same set of circumstances. But I might do it differently.”