Alton Maddox Jr. fought for the people inside and outside the courtroom

“Attorney-at-War” Alton Maddox Jr. has passed. The militant Black lawyer and defender of oppressed people died on April 23, aged 77 years old.

Born in Inkster, Michigan―a suburb of Detroit―on July 21, 1945, Maddox’s family moved to Georgia. He grew up In Newnan, Georgia, 33 miles from Atlanta.

Maddox graduated from Howard University and earned his law degree from Boston College. He began working for Harlem Legal Services in 1973 and started his legal practice in 1981.

A former National Conference of Black Lawyers Juvenile Defense Project director, Maddox also founded the Center for Law and Social Justice at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College.

In a series of famous cases, he fearlessly defended his clients. “I feel that every time I go into court, I am trying to dismantle the Dred Scott decision, which says a Black person is three-fifths a human being,” Maddox told New York Times reporter Ronald Smothers in 1987. “All my cases are just camouflaged Dred Scott.”

“When the accused is a white policeman, suddenly the prosecution acts like the defense lawyer for the police, and we have to become the prosecutors,” said the Attorney-at-War.

Maddox was the lawyer for the family of Michael Stewart, a 25-year-old Black artist who was beaten and strangled by police on Sept. 15, 1983. The atrocity was committed in Manhattan’s First Avenue L train subway station, with Stewart dying 13 days later.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau’s office threw the case, and six killer cops went free. But New York City had to cough up $1.7 million for Stewart’s family. 

Morgenthau tried to convict Maddox on phony charges of “judicial obstruction” for shielding his client Willie Bosket and himself from court officers in a courtroom. It took a jury less than two hours to acquit Maddox, who had used his briefcase in self-defense.

Now 60 years old, Bosket is being held in solitary confinement after having spent almost his entire life since early childhood in prison. 

Confronting racist mob violence

Maddox had a target put on his back for defending Black youths that the corporate media demonized to whip up racism. In 1981, Maddox won an acquittal for the Black teenager Anthony Davis, who was accused of killing a white teacher.

In a 1987 case, Maddox was the lawyer for Andre Nichols, a Black youth found not guilty of killing a white Catholic priest. One of the jurors, Bill Schleikher, who was white, said that he was impressed by how Maddox presented the case for Nichols. 

The Howard Beach neighborhood in Queens, New York, became notorious worldwide after a racist white mob attacked Michael Griffith and Cedric Sandiford in December 1986. Griffith was chased into freeway traffic and killed. Sandiford was severely beaten.

Alton Maddox became the attorney for Sandiford and Griffith’s families. The 12 members of the mob were not indicted until Alton Maddox and fellow activist attorney Vernon Mason forced the appointment of a special prosecutor. 

Maddox spoke at a labor press conference organized by Black, Latinx, and white unionists to denounce the Howard Beach lynching.

Yusef Hawkins was killed by a racist white mob in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn in September 1989. The Black 16-year-old had traveled there to purchase a used car.

Representing the family of Hawkins, Maddox helped secure some justice.

Maddox’s courageous defense of Tawana Brawley led to the racist courts suspending the Attorney-at-War. On Nov. 28, 1987, the Black woman was gang raped by six white men in Wappingers Falls, New York, a northern suburb of New York City.

Tawana Brawley was a 15-year-old high school student at the time. Her attackers were part of the local power structure.

One of them was a Dutchess County police officer, Harry Crist. He matched Brawley’s description of one of her rapists in a Nov. 30, 1987, interview.

Within 48 hours, Crist was dead. The authorities claim he committed suicide. 

If this was true, why did Crist take his own life? Was it out of fear of being exposed? Or was Crist murdered to eliminate a witness?

The pathologist who examined Crist’s body ― Dr. Alexander Aplasca ― listed Crist’s death as a homicide. Aplasca never found a self-inflicted wound.

Nor was he shown the weapon Crist allegedly used or any crime scene photos. The autopsy report was suppressed for 11 years. 

Attacking Tawana Brawley and her lawyer

Dr. Aplasca was never called to the grand jury conducted by New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams. Instead of seeking justice for Tawana Brawley, the vile corporate media claimed the Black teenager was lying.

A coverup has been orchestrated for almost 40 years. To this day, the entire capitalist media ― whether liberal or conservative ― insists that Tawana Brawley was lying.

Here’s a link to the real facts on this racist atrocity.

These slimy New York Times headlines for its obituary of Alton Maddox are typical: “Alton H. Maddox Jr., 77, Lawyer in Tawana Brawley Rape Hoax, Dies … After the fraud was revealed, he was unrepentant.”

The gang rape of Tawana Brawley was no hoax. Alton Maddox was indeed “unrepentant” in demanding justice. 

Besides slandering Tawana Brawley, the capitalist power structure sought to silence Alton Maddox. His ability to connect with jurors with his “unblinking large brown eyes” was described in his 1987 interview with the New York Times. 

Maddox was suspended from practicing law in 1990.

It was outrageous that the courageous Black lawyer was kept out of the courtroom. This guaranteed more Black and poor people being railroaded to prison without Alton Maddox being able to defend them.

His suspension didn’t keep Maddox from fighting for justice. He led the United African Movement.

When racist Judge Albert Sabo tried to have Mumia Abu-Jamal killed in August 1995, the UAM sent busloads of people to Philadelphia to stop the execution.

Maddox’s beloved wife, Leola Maddox, passed away in 2017. They are survived by one son, two grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

Long live the memory of Alton Maddox Jr., the people’s Attorney-at-War!

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