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John W. Perdew '64 was released yesterday from the Americus, Ga., jail where he had been imprisoned since Aug.8.
A three-judge federal court declared unconstitutional a Georgia insurrection law under which Perdew and four other civil rights workers have been held without bail. The court similarly struck down a law against "unlawful assembly," under which the rights leaders had also been charged.
Perdew told the CRIMSON last night that he hoped to visit Boston and his home town of Denver during the next few days and then to return to the South to continue his work for civil rights. He said he did not know in which Southern city he would work. "I've been out of touch with the situation for three months, after all. "I'll go wherever I can do the most good," he said.
The judges' ruling released immediately Zev Aelony, 25, a former student at the University of Minnesota, who had been charged only with incitement to insurrection. Perdew, Donald Harris, 25, a Hutgers graduate; and Ralph W. Allen, a student on leave from Trinity, had been charged with rioting, assisting in escape, and assault with intent to murder, as well as incitement and unlawful assembly. The court fixed bail at $2000 each, and it was promptly paid.
Perdew and the others will have to return to Americus Nov. 11 to face trial on two misdemeanor charges brought by the city. One charges the students with resisting arrest, the other with disorderly conduct. Perdew said he expected to be convicted, but thought he could lodge a successful appeal.
Other litigation will have to wait until the three-judge federal court resumes sitting sometime in December. The panel recessed after its decision today. When it reconvenes, it will hear Georgia officials present their side of the case and will rule on a motion by the students' attorneys asking that the charges against Perdew, Harris, and Allen be dropped.
The court turned down a request for an injunction to prevent Georgia from interfering with civil rights leaders, but the decision implied that injunctions in similar cases would be granted unless local courts set ball within the limits prescribed by the judges--$500 for a misdemeanor, $1000 for a felony.
Judge Elbert Tuttle, chief judge of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and District Judge Lewis R. Morgan of La Grange, Ga., supported the majority decision.
District Judge J. Robert Elliott of Columbus, Ga., dissented. He said that he would have fixed reasonable ball for the prisoners but "impinge no further on the state courts." He noted that the case is currently pending before the Georgia State Supreme Court and said that the federal court's holding hearings on the case amounted to "unwarranted interference with the state courts."
One Harvard Law School professor disagreed with Elliott's statement last night. Mark De Wolfe Howe '23, professor of Law, said that "federal courts have the power to stop state courts when they abuse their powers. This doesn't happen often, because such outrages don't often occur."
After the panel's ruling, attorneys for the rights workers called off their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court had been asked to set ball for the students in a motion filed earlier this week. They said that they will continue with their appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus to release all four prisoners from all the charges
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