Legal wheels began turning yesterday in the drive to free John W. Perdew '64 and four other civil rights workers imprisoned in Americus, Ga., since Aug. 3.
Judge Elbert Tuttle of Atlanta, chief judge of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, filed an order in Macon setting up a special three-judge panel to hear a suit seeking the release of the defendants. The suit charges that the defendants are being held illegally as a result of a "conspiracy" by state and local officials to halt the desegregation campaign in Americus.
If the three-judge panel denies the suit it could be appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Perdew and three other workers for the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, Zev Aelony, Don Harris, and Ralph Allen are being held without bail for inciting to insurrection, a charge carrying a maximum penalty of death and a minimum of five years' imprisonment. The fifth SNCC worker, Thomas McDaniel, is charged with unlawful assembly and assaulting an officer.
Lawyers for the defendants filed the conspiracy suit with District Judge J. Robert Eilliott of Albany, Ga., Friday, and asked that the suit be heard by the special three-man panel.
In another development, the Kirkland House Committee reported last night that it has raised $600 of its $5000 target; the money will go for Perdew's defense. Along with the fund drive, an ad hoc committee under William R. Crout, teaching fellow in Gen Ed, is also mobilizing support for Title X of the House Judiciary Subcommittee civil rights bill to enable civil rights cases to be removed more readily from local to federal district courts.
Under present federal law, civil rights cases can be removed from local to federal district courts only with the consent of a district judge. Title X would amend this statute to allow appeals to higher federal courts; thus a Circuit Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court could overrule a denial for removal.
Members of the committee are urging students to write their Senators and Congressmen about Title X, and to join a delegation to Washington Monday and Tuesday to press for its enactment. The Committee will hold an open meeting at 8 p.m. tonight in Sever 19.
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