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Radical lawyer Fay Stender fought for prison reform – and paid with her life

Fay Stender ’53

Fay Stender represented prominent Black Panther leaders Huey Newton and George Jackson. The Oregonian

By Douglas Perry of the Oregonian

"Have you ever betrayed anyone?" the man asked.

"No," Fay Stender replied, knowing she wasn't giving the desired answer.

She felt the cold steel of the .38-caliber pistol press against the back of her head. It was 1:20 a.m. on May 28, 1979, and this large, angry man had just burst into her Berkeley, Calif., home.

"Don't you feel you betrayed George Jackson?"

"No," Stender said again. She was sitting at her small, wooden writing desk, as she'd been ordered to do. Her new lover cowered on the bed nearby. Her 20-year-old son, Neal, stood in the doorway, quietly panicked.

Fay Stender was a high-profile defense lawyer who had spent years advocating for prisoners' rights. Jackson, a member of the militant group the Black Panthers, had been one of her best-known clients -- and so much more than that. She'd dropped his case in 1971. Just months later, Jackson had been shot dead.

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[Read the rest of this amazing story, Why Reedie and radical lawyer Fay Stender fought for prison reform -- and paid with her life, in the Oregonian.]

Appeared in Reed magazine: Online only

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