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Lyr Add: Ella Ellison (Joanna Cazden)

Joe Offer 12 Nov 09 - 01:17 AM
Joe Offer 12 Nov 09 - 01:25 AM
Jim Dixon 13 Nov 09 - 03:31 PM
GUEST 27 Feb 11 - 08:43 AM
GUEST 10 Feb 12 - 10:53 PM
Elmore 11 Feb 12 - 03:37 PM
Elmore 11 Feb 12 - 04:30 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: ELLA ELLISON (Joanna Cazden)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 12 Nov 09 - 01:17 AM

Somebody sang this song at our song circle Sunday, and I found it very powerful, albeit perhaps a bit strident. Anyhow, I found the song and the story behind it very interesting. I don't know who Joanna Cazden is/was, but I'll bet she was/is related to Norm Cazden.

Words and Music by Joanna Cazden. Copyright 1976 by Joanna Cazden.
Ella Ellison is a young, black woman, mother of four, who is presently serving a "natural life" sentence in Framingham (Mass.) Women's Prison. She was convicted in November 1974 of murder due to her alleged participation in a robbery in which a Boston policeman was killed. Ella Ellison, like many others, is a victim of a "justice" system which allows the state to plea bargain, offering reduced sentences to people who give testimony to implicate others. Even though the two men of whom this song tells have now recanted their testimony which incriminated Ms. Ellison, the judge has not permitted a retrial. The next step for Ella Ellison (as this booklet goes to press) is an appeal to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. For more information contact:
The Ella Ellison Support Committee
1151 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, Ma. 02138
(617) 491-1575
Joanna Cazden, creator of this song, is a Boston- based singer-songwriter who can be heard on two of her own albums, 'The Greatest Illusion of All" and "Hatching".

(Joanna Cazden)

It began when two young robbers
Got a bargain for their plea:
It they would only name an accomplice,
They'd get away with "second degree."
And the vengeance for a dead policeman
On someone was bound to fall,
But even their tortured description
Doesn't fit this prisoner at all.

"I cannot live without my children," she cried.
"It breaks my heart to see them through the bars."
The system is cracking, cracking, in desperation hacking,
And the poor, and the black, and the women wear the scars.

Ella Ellison sat in the courtroom
Her innocence always maintained
While the prosecutor called her a cop-killer
And monkey, and many other names
Her accusers bought years of freedom
With evidence so full of holes
And Ellison found guilty of murder
Sentenced for life, with no parole

Now the two young desperados
May have had their reasons for the plan
And the cop who died at that jewelry store
May have been a brave and loyal man
But if for mercy you would argue
It with compassion you would care
Then how about some consideration
For a woman who wasn't even there?

Now this country's s'posed to have ideals for export
And liberty enough to spare
But when I heard about Ella Ellison
For the first time I got really scared
I confess I believed in the protection
Of my light hair, my college degree
But now you know I just can't shake the feeling
That they could just as well come after me

And I dream that I deserve it
My innocence forever lost
That of all the little mistakes in my life
This would finally be the cost.
Oh my sisters may know of this disease
Always afraid, always feeling in the wrong
But I'm waking up to see now that the victims
Are just the ones who keep their silence too long!

Copied from the liner notes,

...And Ain't I a Woman?
New Harmony Sisterhood Band PAR01038

Available from Smithsonian Folkways
I take it from this Website that Joanna Cazden is the daughter of folklorist Norm Cazden. Here's what she says:
    I'm a singer, choral director, and speech pathologist who specializes in health care/rehabilitation for singers. Check out my handbook of everyday voice care at www.tinyurl.cazden-book. I have music in my blood (father was a pianist, composer, and folklorist), a BA & MFA in theater arts, 6 albums as a singer-songwriter, and 20 years' experience leading the Sholem Yiddish Chorus, a community group in Los Angeles. I also write most of the choral arrangements (Yiddish folk songs and related anthems), keeping the vocal ranges modest and the emphasis on melody and lyric, adding harmonies and rhythmic accents to support, not obscure, the source material. In the voice rehabilitation world, I worked for 7 years at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, treating about 400 professional and avocational singers with nodules, acid reflux, or more complex medical conditions. That work continues now in a private practice.
This page confirms that she is the daughter of Norm Cazden.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ella Ellison (Joanna Cazden)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 12 Nov 09 - 01:25 AM

Here's more on Ella Ellison:

Ella Mae Ellison - convicted: 1974
In 1973, Boston Police Detective John Schroeder was murdered in the commission of a robbery. The three youths who committed the crime were apprehended within a day. In the course of plea-bargaining, two of the defendants agreed to testify against an accomplice named "Sue." Ella Mae Ellison was eventually arrested as being "Sue." While she knew the defendants, the only evidence against her was their testimony. As part of their agreement with prosecutors, the two plead guilty to second-degree murder. Ellison was convicted of first-degree murder and armed robbery and sentenced to two life terms. In 1976, the two defendants who had testified against Ellison admitted that there had been no fourth participant in the crime; they had invented "Sue." The Supreme Judicial Court subsequently reversed Ellison's conviction and all charges were dropped. Released: 1978

Source: (No Death Penalty)

    The Boston Globe
    March 26, 1980
    By Globe Staff

    Terrell Walker, 24, formerly of Dorchester, was sentenced to 18 to 20
    years in prison yesterday after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the slaying of a Boston detective during a Roxbury holdup on Nov. 30, 1973.

    Judge Andrew R. Linscott in Suffolk Superior Court imposed the term on Walker after the defendant admitted killing Detective John D. Schroeder during a robbery of the Suffolk Loan Co. on Washington Street.

    Walker also was given four concurrent 15 to 20 year terms for four armed robbery indictments. He will be eligible for parole in six years, having already served six years.

    Walker was convicted on a first degree murder charge by an Essex Superior Court jury in August 1974. After an appeal process, his conviction was reversed and remanded for a new trial by the US Court of Appeals.

    The manslaughter plea was negotiated between Suffolk Dist. Atty. Newman Flanagan and Walker's lawyer, Norman Salkind.

    Schroeder was in the Suffolk Loan office when three young men, all armed with handguns, burst into the pawnshop and began scooping jewelry from the display cases.

    Detective Sgt. Robert Hudson told Linscott that Schroeder got into a struggle with Walker and was fatally wounded. "He (Schroeder) fell to the floor and the defendant went through his clothes, removed his badge, his wallet and his service revolver."

    Besides Walker, Anthony J. Irving, 18, Nathaniel Williams, 21, and Ella Mae Ellison, 27, were arrested and charged with being involved in the robbery. All lived in the Columbia Point Housing Project.

    Irving and Williams pleaded guilty to second degree murder and armed robbery charges and testified against both Ellison and Walker in their trials. Irving and Williams are serving life sentences.

    Ellison's first degree murder conviction was later reversed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the indictments against her were dismissed when Irving and Williams recanted their testimony naming her as the driver of the escape car.

    Due to the recantation of Irving's and Williams' testimony and the deaths of two other prosecution witnesses, Flanagan said he "regrettably had to enter into a plea bargain with defendant's counsel."

    Flanagan added that "a jury of (Walker's) peers found him guilty and the Supreme Judicial Court upheld the conviction as did a judge of the US District Court.

    "Unfortunately, a circuit court of appeals made new law to the benefit of the defendant and to the detriment of the public, a law prosecutors must live with but with which I do not agree," Flanagan said.

    "Nevertheless, I am satisfied the ends of justice, as far as the public is concerned, were met, taking all of the circumstances under consideration."

    Schroeder's brother, Walter, a Boston Police patrolman, was shot and killed in a holdup of a Brighton bank on Sept. 23, 1970.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ella Ellison (Joanna Cazden)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 13 Nov 09 - 03:31 PM

There is also information about this case in In Spite of Innocence: Erroneous Convictions in Capital Cases by Michael L. Radelet, Hugo Adam Bedau, Constance E. Putnam (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1994, ©1992), page 72-73.

It also contains the interesting statement:

"One of the many curiosities of the death penalty is that although there seems considerable doubt whether it deters would-be criminals, there is little doubt that fear of the harsher penalty often deters even the innocent from pleading not guilty."

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ella Ellison (Joanna Cazden)
Date: 27 Feb 11 - 08:43 AM

How is it no one has written information on the effects of the wrongful conviction on the children? Why has no one asked how Ella Ellison fared upon her release? No everyone receives a million bucks and lives happily ever after.There is a bio that should be written.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ella Ellison (Joanna Cazden)
Date: 10 Feb 12 - 10:53 PM

Could this be the "L.L. Ellison" referred to in Benita Roth's SEPARATE ROADS TO FEMINISM? Roth writes about a Black woman, "L.L. Ellison" in Framingham State Prison who killed a prison guard in self-defense against sexual assault. Given the similarity in some of the details of the cases, Roth could have confused the wrongful conviction of Ella Ellison on the police murder charge. (I beleive Roth is drawing on a 1999 article by Duchess Harris in WOMANIST THEORY AND RESEARCH where the original error may have occurred -- unless there was a separate "L.L. Ellison."

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ella Ellison (Joanna Cazden)
From: Elmore
Date: 11 Feb 12 - 03:37 PM

Re Joanna Cazden. She sang in concerts and coffee houses in the Cambridge Ma. area in the Early seventies, I believe. Had a pretty voice.I think she did some topical songs. Sounds like she has a good day job there days

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ella Ellison (Joanna Cazden)
From: Elmore
Date: 11 Feb 12 - 04:30 PM

Oops. Just noticed this thread concerns a topical song Joanna wrote. Also, in my entry above I typed "there days".Meant these days. Fading fast.

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