During his trial, Ashker conceived a plan to cause a mistrial by having another inmate called as a witness smuggle a shank in his rectum and stab someone. The prosecutor was the target of choice, but when he proved out of reach the defense lawyer would do. Cozens survived but still has the scars.
More than a month into the action, almost 200 inmates are refusing meals, and lately have gained succor from Jay Leno, Susan Sarandon, Noam Chomsky, Gloria Steinem, Jesse Jackson and 60 other celebrities and civil libertarians and prisoner-rights attorneys who declared in a letter:
"We stand together against these shameful practices and consider them extensions of the same inhumanity practiced at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. In defense of the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we, the undersigned, call on Governor Jerry Brown to end this torture at Pelican Bay and all California prisons immediately."
What blinders they wear in their rarefied world. Ashker, 50, went to prison at age 19 for burglary, after many crimes committed as a juvenile. On the inside, he has killed one inmate, assaulted other prisoners and guards, has been caught with weapons and drugs, and tried to escape four times. He and other gang leaders fomenting the hunger strike want out of security housing because their isolation limits their ability to conduct gang business, prison officials say.
"They have no idea how dangerous this guy is," [Defense attorney Philip] Cozens said of Ashker's outside supporters.
The Real Story Behind the Hunger Strike
Dan Morain has this story in the Sacramento Bee on the California prison hunger strike and its high-profile supporters: