SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — Too many questions were left unresolved after the 1971 prison uprising that left three San Quentin inmates and three prison guards dead, an attorney for Stephen Bingham charged in closing arguments Tuesday.
Defense Counsel M. Gerald Schwartzbach told the Marin County Superior Court jury that there were major gaps in the investigation, including failure on the part of authorities to search for key suspects other than Bingham, who was a fugitive for 13 years.
Bingham, 44, is charged with one count of conspiracy--for allegedly smuggling a pistol, ammunition and an Afro wig to inmate George Jackson on the day of the attempted prison escape--and two counts of murder for the deaths of prison guards Frank DeLeon and Jere Graham.
Both guards died of gunshot wounds to the head. Jackson, a black prison revolutionary, Black Panther Party member and author of "Soledad Brother," was also killed in the riot.
Schwartzbach reminded the jury that the burden of proof lies with prosecutors, who he said must prove that Bingham was involved in a conspiracy to aid the escape attempt by supplying the pistol used to kill the guards.
The prosecution contends that Bingham smuggled the gun to Jackson hidden in a tape recorder and carried inside a briefcase. But when Bingham arrived at the prison to visit Jackson, he did not have a briefcase or a tape recorder, Schwartzbach said.
The briefcase and tape recorder were supplied by Vanita Anderson, a friend of Jackson's who was not allowed to visit the prisoner that day, Schwartzbach said.
Schwartzbach said the jury should wonder why Anderson was never questioned in front of a grand jury, why she was never subpoenaed and why no search warrant was ever issued to examine the briefcase and tape recorder that belonged to her.
"Why were they staying away from Vanita Anderson?" asked Schwartzbach. "I'm just asking you to draw reasonable inferences."
The defense attorney also told the jury, "In order to understand this case, you have to understand 1971. You have to understand that George Jackson wasn't just an inmate in San Quentin prison in 1971. . . . Who he was and what he was about and what he represented to other people is a big part of what this case is all about."
Schwartzbach reviewed medical evidence that he said suggests that Jackson was killed by a fatal shot from a handgun, not from a Winchester rifle like those used by San Quentin guards.