Albion Monitor /News
The Prosecution Case Begins

Miller's Tale

by Nicholas Wilson

on "Bear" Lincoln Case

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UKIAH, CA -- Deputy District Attorney Aaron Williams began his prosecution of Bear Lincoln immediately following opening statements on July 29, calling in quick succession three witnesses to the stand. But to the bewilderment of many in the courtroom, all testimony concerned only the death of Gene Britton -- the man killed earlier April 14, 1995 by Arylis Peters.

The Prosecutor Rebuked

Defense attorney J. Tony Serra moved to strike testimony of all three from the record, and Judge Golden said he was inclined to agree. Williams, the judge said, hadn't even established that Lincoln was accused of a crime -- he had neglected to lay the most basic foundation to his case. His plans shot down and rebuked in front of a packed courtroom, Williams looked dismayed.

Showing mercy on the crestfallen Deputy D.A., the judge said he would delay ruling on Serra's motion to give Williams a chance to salvage the testimony by laying a foundation later. Some observers commented that it was as though Williams had flunked Prosecution 101, and that it was customary to begin your case with a strong witness.

According to a rumor attributed to at least two reliable sources, Williams has submitted his resignation effective with the end of this trial. Anderson Valley Advertiser reporter Mark Heimann said that last week he asked Williams for comment on this rumor, and Williams replied, "I don't have any comment for you about anything."

The weekly AVA had appeared the previous day with Heimann's report on the first week of the trial, and Williams was likely to have seen it. The article slams Williams as incompetent, for the weakness of the case against Lincoln, and that D.A. Susan Massini should have prosecuted the highly charged and closely watched case herself. Instead, the AVA opined, she chose to protect her career by sacrificing the young Williams.

Although a sick juror caused Judge Golden to suspend the trial on the following day, he turned to matters to be considered out of the jury's presence. Giving stern warnings to members of the public, he noted that on opening day there had been reactions to the courtroom events. He warned that anyone making "a noticeable reaction" will be permanently excluded from the trial.

Serra raised the issue of green ribbon pins worn by members of the family of slain deputy Bob Davis and by Sheriff James Tuso, who sat with them in front row seats nearest the jury box. No manifestations of support for either side are allowed, said the judge. He later prohibited the wearing even of American Indian Movement and Round Valley Indians for Justice T-shirts in the hallways as well as the courtroom itself.

When court resumed on Thursday, July 31, Williams called his star witness, Deputy Dennis Miller -- besides Bear Lincoln, the only other survivor to events on Little Valley Road that left two men dead.

Miller on the Stand

No surprises appeared in Miller's testimony; it shuffled along exactly in synch with opening statements from the District Attorney. But introduced as evidence was the tape recording made by Miller's pocket recorder during the confrontation. Williams played a dub of the tape for the jury on a large boom box. Just 44 seconds long, the short recording ended with a six-round burst of automatic gunfire, with the tape cutting off abruptly simultaneously with the sixth shot.

During cross-examination, Serra tripped up Miller several times on the accuracy of his memory, revealing contradictions in earlier statements by the deputy.

Also striking was the image painted of two deputies, who had never worked together and were heavily armed with pistols, rifles and shotguns. Miller admitted this was more armament than two normal officers would have, but "neither Davis nor myself were normal officers."

As the cross-examination neared its end on August 4, Serra began to turn up his intensity and passion, again concentrating on the trail of blood leading down the path. This was the shocking revelation introduced in opening arguments by Serra -- that the blood appears to have belonged to Davis, implying that the deputy chased eyewitness Bear Lincoln as he fled.

"Like Wine, Your Memory Improves With Age"

Miller said he was only recently told that the blood was "possibly attributed" to Officer Davis, but had no explanation why Davis' blood could be found a great distance down the trail. The deputy again insisted that Davis was only out of sight for a few seconds.

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Albion Monitor August 14, 1997 (

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