BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – The widow of the state police captain who gave the command to retake the Attica prison from rioting inmates in 1971 says unsealing investigative documents now would be unfair, but others say it’s time, for the sake of history, to let the public see them.
More than a dozen groups and individuals have weighed in on Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s state Supreme Court request to open two remaining volumes of a 1975 report examining investigations into the uprising that ended when state troopers and guards stormed the facility and fatally shot 29 inmates and 10 hostages.
Justice Patrick NeMoyer, during a public response period, has received handwritten letters and lengthy legal briefs. Prison guards, inmates and members of the public with no direct connection to the uprising have weighed in, along with relatives of those killed. A decision is expected later this year.
“The hostages, widows and children of those involved have been kept in the dark for over 42 years. It is time for them to learn the truth of our states’ darkest days before it is too late,” said a letter supporting the documents’ release signed by 91 Attica guards.
The five-day revolt began over living conditions inside the overcrowded maximum-security prison in rural western New York. On Sept. 13, 1971, state troopers and guards stormed the facility and fired hundreds of rounds into a prison yard over the span of six minutes. In all, 11 staff and 32 inmates died in the riot and siege.
Known as the Meyer Commission Report for the late judge who headed the panel, the 570-page document examined prior investigations of the retaking. The report was divided into three volumes. The first volume, with broad findings and recommendations, was released, but the other two volumes were sealed because they contain grand jury testimony.