Another immigrant to the United States was Nigerian citizen Onunwa Iwuagwu, known in Grand Rapids as "Al." On March 7, 1985, Mr. Iwuagwu was shot to death in an upstairs bedroom of a home at 1542 Broadway that was owned by Marianne Schut, mother of Harry Bout.
Known to be present in the house at the time of the shooting were Harry, Dawn Bean, a young woman that Harry was dating, and Evelyn Schneider, an elderly woman that rented a bedroom from Mrs. Schut at the house. Mr. Iwuagwu lived in Grand Rapids with his wife Charlotte. Harry Bout had informed Charlotte earlier that day that he and Al would be going out that night.
On March 7, 1985, Harry and Dawn double dated with Al Iwuagwu and Vera Johnson. Later, after dropping off Vera, the remaining three went to the house on Broadway, where Al was shot to death. He had three bullet wounds in the head.
Harry Bout was charged with the crime, and the main witness against him was Dawn Bean. She testified that Harry Bout had suggested a threesome, and that she agreed, and led the way upstairs, with Al following and Harry in the rear. She said that in the upstairs bedroom she heard shots, and saw that Harry had a gun.
|Evelyn Schneider told police and testified that she was in her bedroom, heard shots, then saw Harry Bout coming up the stairs carrying a shotgun. He called out "Dawn, are you all right?" Police agreed there was no evidence that the shotgun was ever fired, and Al was killed with a handgun, not a shotgun.|
HARRY BOUT, DUTCH CITIZEN, LEARNS A BITTER LESSON ABOUT AMERICA
Harry Bout testified he heard the shot while downstairs, got the shotgun, and headed up the stairs, asking Dawn if she was all right. When he got up there, he saw Dawn alone with the body of Al Iwuagwu. She told Harry that Al was committing a sexual assault when she shot him, and begged Harry for help. Harry, 26 at the time, used poor judgment in participating in a plan to help the attractive young woman hide the body. Harry admitted helping to cover up the shooting, by helping to bury the body and move Al's car to an airport parking lot. But he insisted that it was Dawn Bean who did the shooting.
A factual question was presented for the jurors to decide. Michigan law provides that if a person knowingly and intentionally gives aid to a killer after the killing, but was not involved in the killing, the person is guilty of a lesser felony of Accessory After the Fact. If Evelyn Schneider was telling the truth, then Harry Bout was innocent of murder, and the real killer would have to be Dawn Bean, the woman who testified Harry did it.
|Grand Rapids police officers Sandra Arens and John Robinson each testified that it would be impossible for Mrs. Schneider to see who was coming up the stairs from her bedroom. The defense frantically moved for a jury view of the premises. Michigan law holds that in the discretion of the judge, a jury can go to the scene of a crime or other important location to see for themselves how things are situated, instead of just taking as gospel the opinion of someone else from the witness stand.|
Prosecutor Varis Klavins opposed the jury view, wishing there to be no contradiction of the officers' testimony. Kent County Circuit Judge Stuart Hoffius ruled that under Michigan law it was in his discretion whether or not to allow the jury to see for themselves, and his choice was that they not be allowed to see. So, the defense called three people, including Harry Bout's sister, to testify that one could see someone coming up the stairs and crossing to the room where Iwuagwu was shot, from Mrs. Schneider's bedroom. But, apparently the jury believed the officers over Harry Bout's sister. So, they discounted the testimony of Mrs. Schneider, and convicted Harry Bout of murder. Mr. Bout is serving a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.
Below is a link to a short (46 second) AVI format movie concerning what can be seen from Mrs. Schneider's bedroom. On some browsers, you will see the movie right on this page instead of by link. The AVI movie link is http://www.injusticeline.com/bout.avi. If you cannot play AVI movies, there is a QuickTime version of the movie at http://www.injusticeline.com/bout.mov.
For those of you who cannot see the video, just look at these photos. First is the view from the bed of Evelyn Schneider. A person must cross the hallway in front of her door to get to where Iwuagwu was killed. Mrs. Schneider was certain that Harry came up the stairs after the shooting.
CAN YOU SEE A PERSON COMING UP THE STAIRS
AND CROSSING IN FRONT OF YOU?
Next is the view into the room. To get to the room where the shooting took place, one goes up the stairs at the right of the photo (you see railing only), then turn left, walk past Mrs. Schneider's room directly into another room. Turn right to get to the room where Mr. Iwuagwu was killed.
COULD SOMEONE IN THAT BED SEE YOU?
Next is a diagram of the top floor of the house. Officers swore that Mrs. Schneider could not have seen Harry Bout as he came up the stairs and crossed to where the shots had been fired.
SHOULD A JURY BE ALLOWED TO GO AND
SEE THE ACTUAL LAYOUT BEFORE DECIDING
BOUT COULD NOT BE SEEN FROM THE BED?
The Grand Rapids police also violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. This international agreement, ratified by the U.S. in 1969, provides that when a foreign citizen is arrested, the host government must (1) notify the consulate of the other nation, and (2) notify the prisoner of his right to contact the consulate, and provide a means of doing so. The authorities in Grand Rapids violated the international agreement, and so far the United States government has taken no action to comply with the treaty or to prevent future treaty violations.
In fact, the United States routinely violates this treaty. In the case of Angel Breard, a Panamanian citizen was executed by the State of Virginia even though the International Court of Justice had issued an order not to proceed with the execution until the matter of the treaty violation had been examined. The United States Supreme Court said that Virginia did not have to obey the World Court, or obey treaty provisions agreed to by the United States. Mr. Breard was executed over the protests of the government of Paraguay. Later, Canadian citizen Stanley Faulder was executed in Texas after similar treaty violations by the United States. German citizens Karl and Walter LaGrand were executed in Arizona after similar treaty violations by the United States. The list goes on and on.
Legal experts have criticized the United States for relying on the International Court of Justice when it promotes United States ends, such as indicting Yugoslav leaders and soldiers, while blatantly refusing to comply with orders from the same court when the United States violates international law. Others fear American citizens in foreign countries will suffer as other nations retaliate for the routine U.S. violations of the international agreement.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the U.S. need not follow rulings of the International Court of Justice on the matter. In Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon, the Court ruled that victims of the treaty violations have no remedy in United States courts. It is Mr. Bout's hope that the government of the Netherlands will use its influence to get the United States to adhere to the treaty they agreed to, or at least to arrange his transfer to a prison in the Netherlands. The Netherlands government has provided amicus curia briefs to the Michigan courts in support of Mr. Bout. On August 29, 2006, the Michigan Supreme Court denied Mr. Bout's appeal. As of now, the Netherlands government has not yet committed to taking further action on behalf of Mr. Bout.
Harry Bout is serving life in prison without possibility of parole. Under Michigan law, that means he can never be released from prison, without an order of commutation signed personally by the Governor of Michigan. No one convicted of first degree murder in Michigan has received a commutation in decades. Without court intervention in his favor, he will certainly die in prison.
Life in a Michigan prison can be harsh. For example, for over 8 years Harry resided in the Alger Maximum Correctional Facility in Munising, Michigan. For years he rarely was permitted to leave his one-man cell, usually staying 23 or 24 hours inside. As he was unable to leave his cell, he was unable to earn the few cents a day that prisoners can earn on prison work assignments. When he did leave his cell, he was in handcuffs, belly chains, and leg irons. Yet, he was never accused of committing any violent acts while in prison. At 5 feet 7 inches (170 cm) and 125 pounds (57 kg) he seems an unlikely candidate for such treatment.
The Alger prison is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a remote and thinly populated area. It is over 340 miles (almost 550 kilometers) from Grand Rapids, and further from the state's main source of prisoners, Detroit. If a prisoner is lucky enough to get a visitor to come so far, he gets a non-contact visit. In other words, while fully shackled hand, waist and foot, the prisoner talks to his visitor from the other side of a security glass barrier. Unfortunately, Harry's mother Marianne is elderly and in poor health and unable to face 600 miles by car.
This required Harry to communicate by letter and by phone. However, Harry was not allowed to use the phone, except that he could sometimes call back if his attorney or the Dutch Consulate called for him. He could not call his mother. That left letters.
[Update: Marianne passed away in 2005, and will never see her son freed. Harry was not allowed to attend her funeral.]
Harry had filed lawsuits against the Department of Corrections and various officials, largely unsuccessful. As a losing party, Harry was ordered by the courts to be responsible for various court costs. He owes almost $6,000 in court costs. That means that Harry cannot buy stamps. It also means that he cannot buy soap, toothpaste, shampoo, and the other little things that many prisoners are allowed to buy to make their lives a little less awful. If someone sends him money, the Department of Corrections, acting under court order, will seize it until the state has been paid. That leaves him largely dependent on the charity of other prisoners, an uncertain prospect at best in light of the fact that the other prisoners have their own problems.
After almost 9 years in these conditions, his attorney called the Alger prison to inform them that a Dutch television newsman, Twan Huijs, wanted to come and interview Mr. Bout. Two days later, Mr. Bout was on a bus, transferred to the Carson City Correctional Facility, in central Michigan. In his interview with Mr. Huijs, he was elated. "You don't know what it means to me to be out of my cell without handcuffs on," he beamed, as he rubbed his wrists.
However, the court orders against him still remain. Therefore, it is Harry's request that if anyone wants to help, that they send a contribution to him at the prison, no matter how small. Please understand that Harry will not get the money. It will be taken to satisfy the court imposed debt. However, once $6,000 is received, Harry Bout will rise in status to being an ordinary prisoner serving life in prison without possibility of parole.
Money sent to a prisoner must be a cashier's check, a certified check or a money order made out to the prisoner. The prisoner's number must be on it. If you choose to help, you can send a contribution, even a small one, to:
For Harry Bout, 180741
Carson City Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 5000
Carson City, MI 48811
For more coverage, see the website freeharrybout.org.
See the text of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
Read on CNN about Germany's lawsuit against the United States.
Read the text of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Breard case.
Read the argument of Paraguay to the International Court of Justice in the Breard case.
Read about the protests of the government of Mexico in the case of Miguel Flores.
See a flyer put out by Harry Bout supporters.