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Photo Essay: Jury Examines Judi Bari's Bombed Car

by Nicholas Wilson

report on Judi Bari vs. FBI trial
Judi Bari's bomb-damaged 1981 Subaru station wagon was brought to a parking lot a couple of blocks from the Oakland Federal Courthouse April 17, giving the judge and jury a rare opportunity to see the most crucial piece of evidence in the case of Bari vs FBI.

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Jurors view Judi Bari bomed car
The Bari legal team considered it a great victory that they were able to show the jury the actual car, instead of relying on photographs. There is an emotional impact of seeing and touching the actual car that is impossible to duplicate. Attorney Tony Serra said, "This is the most obvious proof that the FBI and Oakland Police were lying. It's obvious even to a nonexpert that the bomb was under the seat."

The car, with its roof tented from the force explosion, revealed the blast damage from the bomb under Bari's driver's seat. Next to Bari's car was an intact vehicle of the same year and model.

The jurors spent about 20 minutes studying the bombed car, with many of them showing great interest and taking written notes. They did not speak, as they have been ordered not to discuss the case with anyone, even other jurors, until time for deliberation. Some of them carefully compared it with the intact car, and moved back and forth between the two autos several times, taking special note of the position of the driver's seat with respect to the car body.

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Closeup of floorboard and door
Several jurors intently studied the damage to the driver's seat itself, which was placed on the pavement next to the car, alongside the left rear door, which had been cut off the car at the scene to aid in extracting the severely wounded Bari. The driver's door was buckled by the blast, while the left rear door was barely damaged -- supporting evidence that the bomb was under the drivers' seat, not on the back seat floorboard where police and FBI claimed at the time.

Also notable was the large hole blasted in the metal floor pan of the car was clearly centered directly below the driver's seat. The backrest was only slightly damaged.
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Frank Doyle

Attorneys for both sides were present, along with many of the defendants, including "lead defendant" Special Agent Frank Doyle (retired), who was point man for the FBI in 1990 at the scene of the bombing. Agent Doyle told others at the crime scene that he concluded that the bomb was on the back seat floorboard, where it would have been in plain view to Bari and Cherney, indicating they were knowingly carrying it. The plaintiffs counter that "even Ray Charles could have seen" that the bomb was hidden under the driver's seat."

Three weeks after the explosion, the FBI finally admitted that the bomb was under the seat. What plaintiffs are trying to show is that the FBI and OPD officers knew that from day one, and used the false claim that the bomb was in the back as the basis for falsely arresting Bari and Cherney three hours after the explosion, even before all the evidence from the crime scene had been collected, let alone analyzed.

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Lisa Bari confronts car
Judi Bari's daughter Lisa was there too, and as soon as the judge and jury had left, she had her first look at the damage to the car in which her mother was nearly killed. Now 21 and a recent graduate of UC Berkeley, Lisa was only nine years old at the time of the 1990 bombing. She had been afraid she would be very emotional, but "instead I'm feeling kind of numb." Although she had seen many photos of the damaged car, she said, "this is still very weird for me."

A press conference held after court had adjourned for the day provided additional photo opportunities, this time with explanations from lead plaintiffs' lawyer Dennis Cunningham and comments from plaintiff Darryl Cherney.
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Cunningham shows impact of bomb
Cunningham showed the two points where the end caps blew straight off the ends of the pipe bomb and impacted the car body, defining the position of the bomb and proving that it was as far forward under the seat as was physically possible.

Photo © Nicholas Wilson 2002

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Albion Monitor April 13 2002 (

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