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We are some of the people who were chosen as jurors by both the defense and the prosecution in the case of The People vs. Eugene Allon "Bear" Lincoln.
We were all chosen because we were believed to be fair and unbiased with respect to this case. We knew at the outset, once the scope of the charges were explained to us, that no matter what the outcome there would be a segment of our community who would revile us for our decision. Is this fair to us? No, but this is something we and our families get to take home with us forever, and that is life.
We were directed by the court to consider the evidence and only the evidence in this case to make our decision. After going over all of this, deciding what and whom was credible and reasonable in a case with both conflicting testimony and inadequately preserved physical evidence, we unanimously concluded that Bear Lincoln had no complicity whatsoever in the death of Leonard "Acorn" Peters and also that, in the death of Bob Davis, there was no evidence that pointed to murder.
We feel that, for twelve people who could not completely agree, we delivered the best verdict possible in this case. Ten of twelve of us agreed that, on the night of April 14, 1995, Lincoln acted solely in self defense and should have been acquitted of all charges. This majority feels that, if you examine the evidence carefully and follow the law, no other conclusion is possible.
We continue to pursue the truth, and may continue to do so for the rest of our lives. We are driven to this because we feel we have been given disrespect from law enforcement in our community for simply doing our job faithfully and carefully.
Some of us feel the truth still lies within the person of Dennis Miller and may stay hidden there forever. Some of us feel there is a wider circle of those who know the true sequence of events that night. During deliberations, one of the jurors said: "A wise person once told me that the great thing about telling the truth is that you don't have to remember what you said."
We are puzzled as to why the prosecution is pressing forward with the retrial of Lincoln on manslaughter charges in a case full of inconsistent testimony and with scant and tainted physical evidence. We feel a verdict of not guilty is inevitable in a retrial and that this is a waste of court time and taxpayer dollars. We will be watching very closely.
See our 404 update section for a story related to this letter.
Ungagged at last, in the case of People v. Bear Lincoln, I would like to address myself to all the people who perceive themselves as being on The Other Side of this experience we have all gone through.
It has pained me to read the interviews and letters to the various editors decrying the verdict of the jury. Part of the pain came from people's refusal to accept the workings of their own justice system. The rest came from the totally incorrect perception that this verdict was a defeat for the Forces for Good by the Forces for Evil.
I've been a private investigator for 14 years, and for 14 years I, like the attorneys, have been accustomed to trying cases to an empty courtroom. Often not even the defendant's family shows up to witness. The prosecutors do whatever the judge will let them get away with; cops lie under oath and get caught at it without consequences; justice is done or not done in a vacuum. As long as it's not their own ox getting gored, no one cares.
This case was completely different.
The courtroom was full every single day. Three families -- Davis, Lincoln, Peters -- were allocated seats. The press had their own section. Everyone else, including part of the defense team, participated in the same scramble for the remaining seats, showing up an hour before court time to get tickets, which were handed out on a first-come-first-served basis to all comers. Anyone -- ANYONE -- who wanted to come watch had only to come take their place in line. People took time off from work, jockeyed school schedules, left their personal lives unattended, just to be sure that this case would not be tried in one of those vacuums.
Yes, we had supporters. But the supporters were there NOT to see Bear Lincoln escape justice; they were there to see that justice was done. Cora Lee Simmons, Chair of the Round Valley Indians for Justice, testified to the jury that she only wanted Lincoln acquitted if the system, working properly, failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt ... thus displaying a faith in American jurisprudence that many in the dominant society have abandoned. There might have been a couple of Free Bear Lincoln signs out front of the courthouse, but most of them were on the Justice for Bear Lincoln theme.
It took over two months to seat the jury. All white, thanks to the prosecutor, who knocked anyone of color off. All decent folks, ordinary citizens... our neighbors, and Bear's. Six weeks of testimony later, it took those twelve people about two hours to decide that Bear had to be acquitted of all murder charges. They spent the balance of their deliberation time trying to resolve the question of the lesser charges of manslaughter. Ten of them felt there was no basis for those charges either; two of them felt otherwise and held out, apparently predominantly on the basis of a strong feeling that Bear should pay for Davis's death somehow.
But why? Because he did something that violated the law against manslaughter? Or because of the feeling, often expressed In the Letters columns, that SOMEONE should pay, and he's the obvious candidate, being handy and a Covelo Indian. Please consider the following points:
I could go on and on, but frankly I just don't have the energy.
But I do want to try to assuage the honest concerns of Mrs. Gall and her fellow wives of county law enforcement officers. The celebration of Bear's acquittal was low key and spiritual, as was everything done before and since on his behalf. There were no war dances, no one waving tomahawks and vowing vengeance; this group expressed its emotions with prayer circles. The Indian people were overwhelmed and amazed that the system had actually worked for one of theirs. In the aftermath, I have found them bemused and a little wry that the people whose system it is now reject its workings. Never in two and a half years have I heard anyone, in Covelo or anywhere else, vow revenge or threaten violence.
In fact, if Jim Tuso had not so belligerently parked himself between the Davis family and everyone else, many of the people who attended the trial would have taken the opportunity to express their condolences and sympathy to the widow, parents, children and siblings of Deputy Davis. It was Tuso, not Bear's supporters, who created any antagonism that might have been present. Our hearts went out to Phyllis Davis, who handled herself at all times with grace, dignity and self-possession. As did Acorn's survivors and the Lincoln family, despite the frequent attacks by the prosecutor on them.
I never heard anyone rejoice over the death of Bob Davis. In fact, if you were to visit the scene of these events you would find two white crosses, erected in memoriam by the man who foster-fathered Leonard Peters. When asked why he chose to put up two crosses, Emmett Simmons replied simply, "Because two men died up there."
I put that up with Rodney King's immortal plea: "Can't we all just get along?"
Samantha K. Burkey, Defense Investigator (Ukiah)
Burkey's letter was received December 5th, before the gag order was reinstated.
It is my sincere wish that 'Mr.' Lincoln surrender himself immediately and plead guilty to killing Deputy Davis. He is guilty beyond any possible doubt. The well known criminal defense attorney Tony Serra (I suppose 'criminal' would be the operative word) knows he is guilty, you know he is guilty, unfortunately 12 people who couldn't get out of jury duty in that county didn't have the courage to make the correct decision.
Chris Ming (California)
A Fairly Moderate Proposal
Recent news that 25% of U.S. adults smoke and most want to quit gives us a chance to help these people. Tobacco should be made illegal and smokers should go to jail.
If prohibition is good for marijuana users, then it ought to work for these irresponsible tobacco smokers. Obviously, with over 642,000 arrests for marijuana last year (more than twice the rate of 1991, and 80% of those for mere possession), incarceration is a very popular way to deal with a smoking problem.
In the recent study from Columbia University, tobacco was shown to be the true Gateway Drug. The vast majority of heroin users reported starting their illicit drug-use careers by smoking tobacco. Where busting pot-heads has made no difference in the number of heroin users (only a tiny sliver of marijuana users ever try heroin), putting tobacco users in prison, seizing their assets and saddling them with felony convictions is obviously appropriate for these scofflaws.
We should put them in prison -- for their own good and to promote our national priorities.
Jim Rosenfield (Culver City)
"It Was Just A Little Pepper Spray In The Face Area"
Dear Mr. Riggs: We hire police officers to protect our communities and its citizens. We give them hazard pay, sentence their killers to death (a luxury usually not afforded to killers of commoners) and expect a higher degree of integrity from them in return.
Our police do not have the authority to carry out punishment. A police officer needs to be accountable for his/her actions. Under Penal Code Section 149, a Peace Officer who assaults, or batters, a free, public citizen, under color of authority, is guilty of a felony. Prescribed punishment is removal from office and one of the following: up to a year in County jail, more than a year in State Prison, and/or up to $10,000 fine. If the person is in custody, that officer is guilty of a misdemeanor under Penal Code Section 147, punishable by removal from office and up to a year in County jail. The officers could be charged under US Civil Right Code Section 242 for depriving the rights of public citizens under color of law.
"Color of Law" and "Color of Authority " are crimes in which peace officers -- or by private persons under the direction of peace officers, such as Pacific Lumber security officers -- commit an unlawful act under the authority of their position or their uniform.
To be charged for any of these, the Humboldt County D.A., the State Attorney General, or a U.S. Attorney would have to bring the charges. Another method is for the citizens involved to file the charges with one of the above (although one of these three officials would still have to make the criminal charges).
Brian Wilson ( Sonoma County)
As a person who gets most of my news from the Albion Monitor and KPFA public radio, I felt as if I had fallen into an alternate reality when I took my 15 year-old son to the mall to get a pair of shoes.
We went to Copeland Sports, The Athlete's Foot, Footlocker, Mervyn's, Macy's, Sears, and another sporting goods store. My perception was that 75 percent of the sports-type shoes (that's all my son will wear) were Nike. For the shoes on sale, the percentage of shoes that were Nike was even greater. In Macy's, the only sport shoe they carried was Nike!
Now I speak my politics to my teenager. He definitely has the beginnings of a political conscience. He also had three friends along with us for the ride. We were very aware of all the people in these stores that were trying on and buying Nike shoes. I felt the heaviness of extreme apathy in the mall. We went home drained and empty handed.
The marketing blitz we experienced was bloated and obscene, juxtaposed with the human rights violations in Nike's factories. The pattern of oppression, in the name of corporate gain and fueled by consumer apathy, grows more and more grotesque and horrifying.
I am left with two thoughts that I hold like counterweights: How do I buy anything anymore that is not made in this country by union labor without someone's misery on my hands? (Meaning, Nike is in the news, but their practices are not unique.)The other thought is that patterns of any kind, macro- or microcosmically, become even scarier and more unstable right before they are broken. It is this second thought that gets me through the day.
Maddy Avena (Occidental)
We have just updated our Sweatshop resource page to include the latest and best links on Nike and sweatshop labor conditions.
Grand Jury And Conspiracy Theories
I read your article regarding the Oklahoma City bombing. Everyone has a right to their own opinion. The government, by its actions, once again demonstrates its culpability. Your constant reference to "Conspiracy Theorists" shows which side of the fence you are on. Have you ever thought that maybe these people are just honest Americans trying to get at the truth? That is something that the media has been unable to do for a long time. I, personally, am ashamed of the media in the U.S. I don't know what forces are driving all of this, but it is obvious that the media is not allowed to do any real investigative journalism anymore. Thank God for Talk Shows, the Internet, and your so-called "Conspiracy Theorists." Without them, we never would get at the truth.
James P. Pratt (Fresno)
Mr. Pratt is too quick to take offense. There are many theories surrounding the tragedy, and yes, some are nuts. But many others raise serious questions.
Just Say Nay to Tolerance
Here we are starting a New Year. We are going to see another strong push by the homosexual lobby to legalize their lifestyle, and make Christianity illegal. For like Jason of Acts 17: 6, they are accusing the Christian of turning the world upside down. They say that the Christian is evil in their sight. Where is the tolerance that they ask for so much?
Their Tolerance is a form of censorship to quite the opposition so that they might win by default.
In an article by Cal Thomas, an La Times Syndicated Columnist's "Hope for Homosexuals." Mr. Thomas states that the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation conducts organized letter-writing campaigns to newspapers and other media, demanding the censoring of any writer who does not embrace their view. They call anyone opposed to their view "hate mongers, bigots and homophobes." Where is their tolerance?
If you look closely you will see that they endorse pedophilia, bestiality and all kinds of smut. Of Course they say nay. Watch their gay pride parades. See who is most outspoken in them. Listen as they degrade the Christian ethos, all the while passing along their own wickedness. Where is their tolerance?
They watch the letters sent to newspapers and congressman and send smut mail in return.
Allen D. Elliott (La Mirada)
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