In memory: Radical civil rights lawyer Leonard Weinglass
‘True justice was his passion and his life.’
by Gloria La Riva
Leonard Weinglass, preeminent civil rights attorney and fighter for justice whose defense history includes the Chicago 8, Daniel Ellsberg, Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Cuban Five, died on March 23 of cancer.
Known as Len to all, the last picture taken of him was in hospital several days ago as he reviewed his latest appeals documents for Antonio Guerrero of the Cuban Five, for whom he was official appeals attorney. Weinglass was instrumental in the overall case of the Five, especially the latest appeal of Gerardo Hernández, who is serving an unjust double life sentence for defending Cuba—along with his four brothers—from U.S.-backed terrorism. Weinglass joined the Cuban Five’s case in the appeals phase in 2002.
Born August 27, 1933, in New York City, Weinglass earned his law degree from Yale University in 1958. After serving in the U.S. Air Force as a judge advocate, he entered civilian life as a lawyer in an era framed by the great African American Civil Rights movement and the struggle against the Vietnam war. Many of those activists would come to depend on Weinglass to win justice and freedom.
He earned a well-deserved reputation as a people’s defense lawyer, the kind of attorney who does not separate his political and personal life from his legal career.
Weinglass’s long history of defending political and death-row cases attests to those principles: radical activist Angela Davis in 1973; eight Vietnamese students who faced deportation in 1974 due to their political activities against the war; the Atmore-Holman Brothers in Alabama prison in 1977; Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers defendant in 1970; Juan Segarra Palmer, Puerto Rican independentista in the Hartford 15 case in 1989; and too many more to mention.
Weinglass was never without a political case, and many times, more than one.
The Chicago 10
His passion for justice brought him and another people’s advocate, William Kunstler, into the national spotlight in the conspiracy trial of the Chicago Eight from 1969 to 1970.
Both attorneys became known for their courageous and forthright defense of the anti-war activists they represented against a brutal judge who cited both for contempt many times.
At 10 months, it was the longest trial of its time and was recognized as a Nixon government prosecution, with the arch-reactionary Judge Julius Hoffman as his legal henchman. The Eight faced lengthy prison sentences on “conspiracy” charges from the vicious police attack on a mass anti-war rally at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Black Panther Party chairman Bobby Seale was separated from the trial by Hoffman after being literally shackled and gagged in the courtroom, but progressives always referred to the case as the Eight.
Because of their constant defiance of Hoffman’s brutality and outrageous rulings against the Eight, Weinglass and Kunstler were greatly respected in the anti-war movement. Years later, the title of an acclaimed documentary, “The Chicago 10,” honored the two lawyers who stood side-by-side with the eight defendants.
The Cuban Five: his final battle for justice
In 2002, Weinglass joined the appeals team of the Cuban Five political prisoners. He brought to their case his decades of experience in previous political cases, which was of great tactical and strategic benefit to their struggle.
Because of the U.S. government’s politically-motivated persecution of the Five, Weinglass firmly believed that—even as he worked night and day in their legal case—victory is not possible without political solidarity and public pressure.
Whenever the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five needed advice from him on the next steps to take, when we requested interviews so the Free the Five supporters could receive an orientation on the case, he always took the time, no matter how busy he was.
In addition to full-time legal work for the Five, Weinglass spoke for the Five at many anti-war protests, public forums, press conferences, at home and abroad. He had an outstanding ability to explain the complexities of the Five’s case in a popular way, and to inspire others to take up their fight. He was especially loved and was very close to the Cuban Five, their families and the Cuban people.
In one moving incident in March 2003, Weinglass rushed to take the last flight from New York to Denver, before a blinding blizzard shut down the Colorado airport, to see Antonio Guerrero. He then drove almost two hours in that snowstorm to Florence federal prison. Antonio had been cruelly locked up in a punishment cell due to a U.S. government administrative order against the Five. Len’s visit to him after two weeks of complete isolation inspired Antonio to write the poem above.
True justice was Len Weinglass’s passion and his life.
In the month before he died, a special website was set up for family and friends to write him. Hundreds of solidarity messages poured in, from former political prisoners to colleagues in law to his family.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark wrote: “You have been an inspiration to me since we first met in 1969. Your quiet, selfless, relentless, brilliant and heroic commitment to truth and justice—against all odds—has made a difference worldwide. Having been by your side here at home, in Chicago, Iran, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and for the Cuban Five I can testify to your sole, selfless commitment to a world of peace and principle and good times along the way.”
A huge void is left with Len’s passing, but his inspiration and example will live on.
In memory of Leonard Weinglass
by Gerardo Hernández
Not that long ago Len came to visit me and we worked for several hours preparing for the next step of my appeal. I noticed at the time that he was tired. I was worried with his advanced age that he was driving alone after a long trip from New York. The weather was bad and the roads from the airport up to Victorville wind through the mountains surrounding the high desert. I mentioned my concern to him but he did not pay it any attention. That was the way he was, nothing stopped him.
When we would meet the same thing would always happen. At some point in our conversation, while listening to him talk, my mind would separate from his words and I would focus on the person. I would realize that here is this great man, the tremendous lawyer, the legendary fighter for justice, right here in front of me. I told him that I had seen images of him in documentaries on TV dedicating himself to important legal
Len always insisted that our case, like the others that he had dedicated lots of his time to, was essentially a political one. He cautioned us from the start that this struggle would be long and difficult. His experience with the “system” had taught him that. For our part, beyond the professional relationship we had, we always thought of him as one compañero in the battle for justice.
Len leaves us at an important moment, but he leaves us prepared to carry on the path. On more than one occasion he expressed his admiration and respect for the other lawyers on our legal team, and I think that he has left confident that our case is in good hands.
Like other people, who during these years have accompanied us in our struggle to make justice prevail, he will not be with us to see the inevitable triumph. We are confident that day will arrive and to Len, and to all the others, we will pay them a well deserved tribute in our homeland.
On behalf of the Cuban Five, and our families, and from the millions of Cubans, and brothers and sisters from all over the world who trusted and admired him, we send our most sincere condolences to Len’s family and friends.
Leonard Weinglass, Presente!
Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo
Last night our attorney and beloved friend Leonard Weinglass died. The notice reached me this morning through various messages of friends and families.
This is one of those occasions where there are no words to express the profound sorrow that one feels for the loss of such a beloved comrade in the struggle. Nothing could prepare us for this moment. Just as Len himself showed me many times, my thoughts were always of hope, a hope that he would overcome such a sudden illness.
Today I am remembering many shared moments with him.
One of those, that day of my re-sentencing in the Miami court, where Weinglass hoped that it would just be a matter of a process and that I would receive the least sentence possible, for which he had worked without rest. We all know what finally happened. But there was a very critical moment when the judge scolded the prosecutor about the things that she had argued eight years before, to urge a life sentence that was imposed on me in 2001. I was at Len's side and I could see his disturbed reaction and surprise, and he looked at me and said, "What's is this?" And I told him: "Don't worry, tell her all you want to say, I confide completely in you." And Len found the precise words, because his heart harbored only the strength of justice and the purity of truth.
We are in the midst of what is considered our last legal recourse, the habeas corpus. With an iron will during those difficult days Len wrote in his bed a memorandum that strengthens our irrefutable arguments. It is difficult to think that now he will now no longer be physically with us, but Len will always be accompanying us. His work and example will serve every step of the way as a guide and stimulus for all the lawyers who will continue defending us honorably and for all the friends who make up the unstoppable solidarity that will bring us home.
Thinking of Weinglass makes me think of Marti:
"Death is not real when one's life's work is done well."
"Even in death, certain men radiate the light of an aurora."
With great pain we received the sad news about the departure of our dear Leonard Weinglass.
Those who had the honor of meeting him, will keep his example of dignity, intelligence and excellent human being, in our minds and hearts for ever.
The best way to honor him is to follow his path, we will keep on fighting til the final victory!!!
The heart of the Cuban Five, our families and the Cuban people is with this unforgettable brother!!!
Ramón Labañino Salazar
Dear friends and family,
Condolences to the family of Leonard Weinglass
by Cuban Institute Of Friendship With The People
It is with deep sorrow that we have received the news about the death of Leonard Weinglass: United States and Cuba have lost a great lawyer and the solidarity movement, a special friend.
For weeks, we followed the development of his serious medical condition with the hope that this tragic outcome could be avoided.
He has won a place in the hearts of millions who followed his work.
With the same determination he took up the defense of unforgettable cases like the Chicago 8, Angela Davis, Mumia Abu Jamal, among others, he accepted to defend our five Cuban brothers.
The movement of solidarity with Cuba as a whole and, particularly the Committees to Free the Cuban Five, will treasure memorable moments shared with Leonard in this long struggle for the freedom of our Five brothers.
Today, in honor of comrade Weinglass, the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples has opened a condolence book so his friends in Cuba can express our grief.
Next Saturday, an official farewell and homage to Weinglass will be held at ICAP at 5 o´clock coinciding with similar action in New York.
We join the voices of Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Ramón Labañino and René González to say:
Leonard Weinglass… Presente!
by Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
On the afternoon of March 23rd, the same day he marked 78 years of an exemplary life, Leonard Weinglass’s heart stopped beating.
He’d suffered a terrible illness that since January had brought him to a critical and especially painful phase of his life, yet he never stopped working for even a moment. During the last months of his life, as he struggled heroically against illness and physical pain, he dedicated himself body and soul to the preparation and presentation of a Habeas Corpus appeal for Gerardo Hernández Nordelo and for Antonio Guerrero, without stopping to work on the appeals for the rest of the Five.
Just before entering the hospital where he would undergo an urgent operation, he put the final touches on the appeals for Gerardo and Antonio and turned the rest over to other colleagues who were to do the same while he was in recovery. Only then did he agree to take care of himself.
And that’s how he always was. While still a very young man, he joined a firm that, under the direction of Victor Rabinowitz and Leonard Boudin, waged countless battles on behalf of the unions, civil liberties and justice in the United States. With his brilliant defense in 1968 of the Chicago Eight, Lenny began an uninterrupted and admirable career that included the cases of Jane Fonda, Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, Angela Davis, Mumia Abu Jamal, Amy Carter, Kathy Boudin and many others, up to and including the Five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters, and his most recent collaboration with the defense attorneys for Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. The story of the struggles of the North American people cannot be written without the name of Leonard Weinglass being highlighted on each page.
Now and forever, our homage and gratitude go with him.
The loss of Lenny is a difficult blow for Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René. He was their best and most tireless defender, someone who dedicated all his energy and talent to their cause, and struggled for them until the end, amidst his own suffering and agony, until his last breath.
The struggle for the liberation of our comrades must continue, in conditions that are now even more difficult than before, without Lenny. We renew our commitment to move forward until we achieve freedom for all of them. Let’s do it ceaselessly, without resting. It’s the least that we could do for the tireless fighter, the selfless and lucid combatant who was always our dear comrade, Leonard Weinglass.
I just received the news about Leonard Weinglass. I am so sorry to hear that. Several of us in Terre Haute had dinner with him when he visited Fernando. We can tell you a very similar story about his driving through a snowstorm and having to wait on the plane 4 hours after having gotton up at 4 a.m. to catch the plane on his way to Terre Haute.
He was truly one of the greats.
Leonard Weinglass Passed Away in New York
Mar. 24, 2011
Leonard Weinglass, was a restless fighter for the cause of five Cubans who have been in US prisons since 1998, internationally known as the Cuban Five.
The outstanding lawyer graduated from Yale´s Law School in 1958. Some of his cases are still being studied in all American law schools at present.
He became a renowned law professional because he has represented defendants in the most spectacular judicial processes in the United States, from the Chicago Eight to Jane Fonda, from Angela Davis to the kidnappers of Patty Hearst, from Daniel Ellsberg to Amy Carter.
Weinglass became a well known lawyer after the trial of the Chicago Eight, demonstrators against the Vietnam War who were arrested during protests at the Convention of the Democratic Party in 1968 and were charged with conspiracy, inciting to riot and other charges. Among his clients were Abbie Hoffman; Tom Hayden, a political activist, and other civil rights activists.
Weinglass also defended Daniel Ellsberg, a man who, in 1971, leaked some Pentagon documents about the secret history of the Vietnam War to the press. The documents served as an instrument to force President Nixon to step down from power. The case is compared to Wikileaks.
In an interview granted by Weinglass to cubadebate, the lawyer explained why he accepted to defend Antonio Guerrero and support the cause of the five Cubans held in US jails.
He said “I had never worked as a lawyer with the aim of making money, or in litigations for money…Since I studied at the university and we were taught that being a lawyer entails a commitment to justice, I assumed it as such, with absolute passion. Since that point in time I have been involved in cases where justice has been denied, or in cases with political nature because I understand politics—a commitment to those whom are denied justice everyday-. I have also been in processes that have acquired international character in the United States. In this particular case, these three elements are combined, though there is something else: we are representing five exceptional human beings. For me Antonio is not just another defendant. Being his lawyer is more than that. It simply is an honor.
Leonard Weinglass, abogado de derechos civiles radicales
‘La verdadera justicia fue su pasión y su vida.’
por Gloria La Riva
Hoy ha fallecido, a causa del cáncer, Leonard Weinglass, quien fue un preeminente abogado de derechos civiles y un luchador por la justicia. La historia de sus defensas incluye a los Ocho de Chicago, Daniel Ellsberg, Mumia Abu-Jamal y los Cinco Cubanos.
En memoria de Leonard Weinglass
por Gerardo Hernández
No hace mucho tiempo vino a visitarme. Trabajamos por varias horas preparando los próximos pasos de la apelación. Lo note algo cansado. Me preocupó que con su avanzada edad estuviera manejando solo, tras un largo viaje desde Nueva York y con el mal tiempo de aquellos días, por las peligrosas carreteras de las montañas que encierran a Victorville. Le hice la observación, pero le restó importancia. Así era él, nada lo detenía.
Siempre que nos encontrábamos me ocurría lo mismo: en algún momento de la conversación, escuchándolo, mi mente se apartaba de sus palabras para enfocarse en la persona, en el gran hombre, en el tremendo abogado, en la leyenda que tenía enfrente. Alguna vez le comenté que había visto imágenes suyas en documentales de la televisión dedicados a importantes casos legales en los que participó desde muy joven, y que con orgullo le había dicho a algunos aquí: “ese es el abogado de Los Cinco”. Pero no importa cuanto haya leído o escuchado, sé que, por su humildad y su modestia, me queda mucho por descubrir sobre esa vida consagrada a lo más noble de su profesión.
El siempre insistió en que nuestro caso, como otros a los que se entregó, es esencialmente político, y nos alertó de que la lucha sería larga y ardua. Sus experiencias con “el sistema” así se lo indicaban. Por nuestra parte, más allá de la relación profesional, lo vimos siempre como un compañero en la batalla por la justicia.
Se va en un momento muy importante, pero nos deja trazado el camino. En más de una oportunidad me expresó su admiración y respeto por otros abogados de nuestro equipo legal, y pienso que se marchó confiado en que el trabajo quedaría en buenas manos.
Como otras personas que durante años nos acompañaron en la lucha para hacer prevalecer la verdad y la razón, no podrá ver el día en el que triunfe la justicia. Pero ese día llegará, y a él, como a los demás, habremos de rendirle merecido tributo en nuestra patria.
En nombre de Los Cinco, de nuestros familiares, y en el de millones de cubanos y hermanos del mundo que confiaron en él y lo admiraron, lleguen las más sentidas condolencias a sus familiares y amigos.
¡Leonard Weinglass, Presente!
Gerardo Hernández Nordelo
Ayer en la noche fallecio nuestro abogado y querido amigo Leonard Weinglass. La noticia me llego esta man~ana a traves de varios mensajes de amigos y mis familiares.
Es una de esas ocasiones en que no hay palabras para expresar el profundo dolor que se siente por la perdida de un ser tan entran~able, compan~ero de lucha.
Nada podia hacer que nos prepararamos para este momento. Tal como el propio Len me ensen~o muchas veces, siempre mi pensamiento fue de una esperanza, una esperanza en que venceria tan repentina enfermedad.
Hoy he evocado muchos momentos compartidos con el.
Uno de ellos, aquel dia de mi resentencia en la Corte de Miami, donde Weinglass esperaba que todo fuera una cuestion de tramite y que yo lograra la menor sentencia posible, por la cual habia trabajado sin descanso. Todos conocemos al final que sucedio. Pero hubo un momento muy critico, cuando la Jueza increpo a la fiscal sobre las cosas que ella habia argumentado para predirme 8 an~os antes la sentencia de vida que se me impuso en el 2001. Yo que estaba al lado de Len pude ver su reaccion de molestia y asombro, y me miro exclamandome: Que es esto? Y yo le dije: No se preocupe, digale todo lo que quiera, yo confio plenamente en Usted. Y Len encontro las palabras precisas, porque en su corazon solo se albergaba la fuerza de la justicia y la pureza de la verdad.
Estamos en medio de lo que se considera es nuestro ultimo recurso legal, el habeas corpus. Con una voluntad de acero Len escribio en estos duros dias en cama un memorandun que fortalece nuestros irrebatibles argumentos. Es dificil pensar que ya no estara fisicamente entre nosotros, pero Len nos estara acompan~ando por siempre. Su trabajo y su ejemplo serviran en todo momento de guia y estimulo para todos los abogados que nos seguiran defendiendo dignamente y para todos los amigos que conforman la indetenible solidaridad que nos llevara de regreso a casa.
Pensar en Weinglass me conduce a Marti.
"La muerte no es verdad cuando se ha cumplido bien la obra de la vida..."
"Hasta muertos, dan ciertos hombres luz de aurora".
Queridos amigos y familiares,
Ha sido muy difícil para nosotros estando aquí en Colorado visitando a Tony, conocer la noticia de la perdida física de Leonard Weinglass.
por Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
En la tarde del 23 de marzo, el mismo día que cumplía 78 años de una vida ejemplar, dejó de latir el corazón de Leonard Weinglass.
Padecía una terrible enfermedad que desde enero había entrado en una fase crítica y especialmente penosa que, sin embargo, no lo apartó un instante del trabajo. Durante sus últimos meses, arrostrando heroicamente la enfermedad y los dolores físicos, se dedicó en cuerpo y alma a la preparación y presentación del habeas Corpus a favor de Gerardo Hernández Nordelo y el de Antonio Guerrero, sin dejar de ocuparse de los otros compañeros.
Poco antes de ingresar al hospital donde debía ser operado con suma urgencia, dio los últimos pasos para la apelación de Gerardo y de Antonio y encomendó a otros colegas lo que debían hacer mientras él estuviera recluido. Sólo entonces aceptó ocuparse de sí mismo.
Así fue siempre. Siendo muy joven se incorporó al bufete que, bajo la dirección de Victor Rabinowitz y Leonard Boudin, libró incontables batallas legales por los sindicatos, las libertades civiles y la justicia en Estados Unidos. Con su brillante defensa en 1968 de los Ocho de Chicago, Lenny inició una ininterrumpida y admirable carrera que incluyó los casos de Jane Fonda, Daniel Ellsberg y los papeles del Pentágono, Angela Davis, Mumia Abu Jamal, Amy Carter, Kathy Boudin y muchos otros hasta los Cinco antiterroristas cubanos y su más reciente colaboración con los defensores de Julian Assange, el fundador de Wikileaks. No se puede escribir la historia de las luchas del pueblo norteamericano sin destacar, en cada página, el nombre de Leonard Weinglass.
Vaya para él, ahora y siempre, nuestro homenaje y nuestra gratitud.
La pérdida de Lenny es un duro golpe para Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando y René. Él fue su mejor y más incansable defensor, a su causa dedicó toda su energía y su talento, por ellos luchó hasta el final, en medio del sufrimiento y la agonía, hasta el último aliento.
La lucha por la liberación de nuestros compañeros debe continuar, ahora en condiciones aún más difíciles, sin Lenny. Renovemos nuestro compromiso de seguir adelante hasta lograr que todos ellos recuperen la libertad. Hagámoslo sin tregua ni descanso. Es lo menos que debemos prometerle al luchador infatigable, al combatiente abnegado y lúcido que fue siempre el querido compañero Leonard Weinglass.
Murió Leonard Weinglass, el extraordinario luchador por la causa de los Cinco
24 de marzo de 2011
El abogado norteamericano Leonard Weinglass, representante legal de Antonio Guerrero e incansable luchador por la causa de los Cinco, murió esta tarde en Nueva York, confirmaron a Cubadebate personas allegadas a él.
Weinglass, que no logró recuperarse de una operación para extirparle un cáncer, nació el 27 de agosto de 1933. Tenía 77 años.
Se graduó como abogado en 1958 en la Escuela de Leyes de Yale, y algunos de sus casos se estudian hoy en todas las facultades de Derecho de los EEUU.
La razón de su celebridad es que desde los Ocho de Chicago (luego se conocerían como los Chicago Seven o los Siete de Chicago), hasta Jane Fonda, de Angela Davis a los secuestradores de Patty Hearst, de Daniel Ellsberg a Amy Carter, Weinglass ha representado a los acusados en muchos de los más espectaculares procesos judiciales de Estados Unidos.
Fue el juicio a los Ocho de Chicago, los manifestantes contra la Guerra de Vietnam arrestados durante las protestas en la convención del Partido Demócrata en 1968, el que lanzó a Weinglass al primer plano legal. Entre sus defendidos se encontraban Abbie “Steal This Book” Hoffman; Tom Hayden, un activista politico, entre otros célebres luchadores por los derechos civiles.
l juicio es el tema de una proyectada película de Steven Spielberg, The Trial of the Chicago 7. Unos años después, Weinglas se encontró defendiendo a Daniel Ellsberg, el hombre, que en 1971, filtró a la prensa los documentos del Pentágono acerca de la historia secreta de la Guerra de Vietnam, que sirvieron de instrumento para el derrumbe del Presidente Nixon. Este caso de filtración es comparado con el de Wikileaks.
En una entrevista realiza por Cubadebate en el 2004, Weinglass explicó sin rodeos por qué aceptó ser el abogado de Antonio Guerrero, y apoyar la causa de los Cinco cubanos presos en los Estados Unidos. Sus palabras lo retratan:
Cubadebate se une al dolor de sus familiares y amigos, de nuestros Cinco compañeros y de todos los cubanos y norteamericanos que lo admiran y que saben que su muerte es una pérdida dolorosa que comparten ambos pueblos.
Watch a short video to listen to Leonard speak here
Other video and audio material featuring Leonard Weinglass: