Albion Monitor /News
[Editor's Note: Court procedure limits testimony given in cross-examination to direct answers to questions. Some of the presentation below preserves that Q&A format, but long stretches of it is tiring to read, particularly on a computer screen. At the same time, the questions and answers lend unique insight into the trial's two principal opposing personalities. Thus we've also made a complete unofficial transcript of the cross examination available.

In summarized passages below you'll find a character. Click on that graphic to jump to the corresponding point in the 13,000 word cross-exam. To return to this article, click on the icon in the transcript. Thus you can bounce between comprehensive and condensed sections easily.

Assertions contained in the narrative below are those of the witness or questioner, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the author or the Albion Monitor.]

Bear Lincoln Cross-Examined

by Nicholas Wilson

on "Bear" Lincoln Case

report from the courtroom

UKIAH, CA -- After the testimony of Bear Lincoln September 4, Judge John J. Golden granted a defense motion barring prosecutor Aaron Williams from delving into Lincoln's history before the April 14, 1995 shootings on Little Valley Road.

Williams began the cross-examination by presenting the same question in slightly different ways, apparently in hopes of tripping up Lincoln. This type of questioning by the prosecutor continued throughout the cross-examination and ended, as did several of the exchanges, with the Judge agreeing with an objection made by defense attorney J. Tony Serra.

Aaron Williams: How many times did you rehearse your testimony with your attorneys?
Lincoln: I didn't rehearse it.
Q: Did you ever go over it with your attorneys?
A: No.
Q: Did you ever go over it in your own head?
A: Yes.
Q: And that's it; other than going over it in your own head you never went over it with anyone?
A: Yeah.
Q: Did you ever tell any of your family members, other than at Sylvia Duncan's that evening, what happened that evening?
A: No, I didn't.
Q: And you never told your attorneys what happened that evening?
Serra: Objection.
Judge: Sustained.

Lincoln's Mini-14 rifle
The next topic was the Mini-14 rifle, which Lincoln testified he tossed aside while escaping down the brushy hillside after the second firefight. Lincoln said he dropped it because it was empty, and as far as he knew there was no more ammunition for it at his cabin. Williams reminded Lincoln that 16 rounds of live cartridges for the gun were found in his cabin the next day; Lincoln said he must have overlooked them -- he thought he loaded all the bullets he had into a new ammunition clip Peters bought for him. He said he had no recollection of ever buying any ammunition for his nephew's gun, and had only used that which was left along with the weapon.

Q: When did you first become aware that the rifle you had just thrown away was stolen?
A: I didn't know it was stolen.
Q: Did you ever tell Winterhawk that the gun was stolen?
A: No, I didn't.
Q: Did Winterhawk ever tell you that the gun was stolen?
A: Not that I remember.
Q: Did Joseph Lincoln ever tell you that the gun was stolen?
A: He told me that he had bought the rifle.
Q: Is it possible that Winterhawk told you that it was stolen and you just don't recall?
Serra: Objection, calls for speculation.
Judge: Sustained.
Q: Is that something you might forget if somebody told you your rifle was stolen?
Serra: Objection, that's argumentative. (Lincoln had testified it was not his rifle.)
Judge: Sustained.

Q: Did you ever ask anybody to go back and try to find the rifle?
A: No.
Q: Do you know if it was your bullet that struck Bob Davis?
A: No, I don't.
Q: You testified on direct that at one point you knew you had not been the person who shot Bob Davis, correct?
A: I don't believe it was my bullet that killed Officer Davis.
Q: Now, why don't you believe your bullet killed Officer Davis?
A: Well, because I never did see him, and it seems like it's impossible.
Q: Were you curious at all why the rifling in your .223 matched up with the fragments found in Bob Davis' head? (There was no basis for saying there was a rifling match.)
Serra: Objection, argumentative.
Judge: Sustained.

Q: Did you ever see any reason for asking someone to go look for the rifle you threw away?
Serra: Objection, that asks for speculation, opinion, conclusion.
Judge: Sustained.

Q: The fact is, you never made an attempt to go get this rifle that you tell us you threw away, correct?
A: No, I didn't.
Q: And you never told anyone that you threw that rifle away, did you?
A: No.
Q: You didn't tell Winterhawk you threw the rifle away?
A: I might have, I'm not sure.
Q: Previously, just one answer earlier you said no. Now you're saying you might have? Did you tell anyone?
A: No, I don't think I did.
Q: Now because of that, there's no way to match up the land marks in your rifle with the fragments found are there?
Serra: Objection, argumentative.
Judge: Sustained.

"Pine Needles" and Lincoln's fear of police revenge
Williams turned to where Lincoln was during the four months he was in hiding. Lincoln somehow got out of Round Valley and hid in a wooded area in Mendocino County until traveling to San Francisco where he turned himself in. He was aided by a woman he knew only as Pine Needles, whom he saw about twice a week. He said he doesn't know where he was or how to contact Pine Needles, whom he hasn't seen or heard from since.

Williams laughed sarcastically at Lincoln's statement that he didn't remember where he went to hide, and was admonished by Judge Golden to "conduct your examination without that type of manifestation." "Yes sir," said the chastened Williams.

Lincoln said the reason he waited to turn himself in was that he wanted things to cool down, and wanted an Indian lawyer. He wanted to feel safer from being killed by irate Mendocino County law enforcement officers. He turned himself in as soon as he learned Serra had agreed to defend him.

Williams showed Lincoln a statement he had made "that the local media has attacked my character repeatedly since April 14, 1995, and has declared to the public that I am guilty of all charges." Williams intimated that Lincoln turned himself in because he was aware of the bad media he was getting and wanted to put out his side of the story. Lincoln agreed that he wanted to put out his story, and that he did so by writing essays which he sent by mail to the Anderson Valley Advertiser, and other newspapers.

Apparently confused about the time frame and hoping to build a case against Pine Needles for a charge of accessory after the fact to murder, Williams asked if Lincoln had mailed his essays to the papers with the help of the mystery woman. Lincoln pointed out that all of them were written and mailed from jail.

Events leading to the firefights
Again Williams raised the subject of guns. Lincoln said he had "average knowledge" about them, that he enjoyed target shooting. He confirmed Williams' statement that he now subscribes to Guns and Ammo magazine. Nevertheless, as of April 14, 1995, he didn't own any guns.

Williams asked a long series of questions about Leonard Peters' .30-.30 rifle, asking Lincoln if it had been in the car at the time of the altercation with Neil Britton at the gas station. Lincoln said it might have, because Leonard nearly always had it with him, and was unlikely to have left it in the open shelter at the horse pasture where they had left the kids with the horses at that time.

Another long series of questions probed what Lincoln had seen and heard during the gas station confrontation with Neil Britton. That line of questioning was terminated by Serra's objections as to relevance. Along the way, Williams established that Britton was about 6 ft. tall, Peters was about 5'3", and Lincoln was 5'8". Lincoln intervened when he saw that Britton had punched and bloodied Peters, who was drunk by then. The reason Lincoln had invited Britton to throw the first punch at him instead of just punching Britton was that he figured otherwise he'd be jailed for starting the fight.

Lincoln said there was no bad blood between himself and Claudette Britton, and confirmed he had nothing to do with killing her husband. When he drove by the high school he had not laughed at Claudette Britton in a taunting manner as she had testified earlier; he didn't know what had happened there and had no reason to laugh at her.

Lincoln and Peters caught a ride back to Little Valley that night with their friend Bunny Hoagland; if they took their car they would probably be stopped, with all the police flooding the valley. Lincoln had no drivers license, and if they got stopped with Leonard at the wheel he would be arrested for drunk driving. During that day, Peters had drunk a dozen wine coolers, then bought some beer before returning to Little Valley for the last time around 9 p.m. The two friends spent about an hour at Lincoln's cabin that evening, and talked about the Britton shooting while Bear gathered wood and built a fire in the wood stove, and Leonard drank beer.

Williams tried to cast doubt on the two men's stated motive for walking back to Round Valley in the cold weather with on-and-off rain. True, they had not looked for Arylis before going to Little Valley even though they had heard he was involved. But as they talked about it at Bear's cabin, Leonard was more and more worried the Brittons would find and kill Arylis. They walked only because they had no vehicle, having left it at the Peters family place and got a ride home.

As they started walking, the weather was cloudy but not raining, and it was dark. Bear loaned Leonard a spare hat in case it rained, and wore his favorite hat behind his head on a leather thong. It was dark out, and Bear didn't see the moon and couldn't describe its phase. He didn't know if it had risen or if it was hidden by clouds. He estimated he could see up the road at most perhaps 20 ft.

Lincoln could hear dogs barking as they got to the gate we could hear dogs barking. As they got near the top of the hill he didn't hear anybody saying "sheriff's dept." or making radio calls. He heard nobody after the first firefight yelling 11-99, but thought he heard 10-99 later, after the second firefight. He couldn't hear people identifying themselves as the sheriff's department The first thing he heard was Acorn saying, "oh fuck!" Then the gunfire started.

Ambush on Little Valley Road
The gunfire seemed to come from the intersection, but he couldn't tell for sure. He didn't see any muzzle flashes from the intersection, but the sound seemed to come from in front of him. He saw Leonard Peters drop right away. Lincoln put a round in the chamber and returned fire.

Williams turned to the matter of Bear's hat. He had knocked it off because it was in the way, but didn't remember whether he'd done that before or after raising his rifle to defend himself. The prosecutor pointed to the spot on the photo where it was found. He asked if it wasn't at the edge of the road just below a path leading to the area right above and to the right of the sheriff's patrol vehicle. "Well, I was in the middle of the road when I took it off," said Lincoln.

Q: Okay, so you were in the middle of the road when you first heard gunfire?
A: Yes.
Q: So you weren't standing to the left side of the road, were you?
A: No.
Q: And from the middle of the road you couldn't see any muzzle flashes?
A: No.
Q: What was your plan as you ran forward?
A: To jump off the side of the road.
Q: Why would you jump off the side of the road?
A: I didn't want to get shot.
Q: So, you thought the gunfire was coming from in front of you?
A: Somewhere in the front, yeah.
Q: But you weren't exactly sure, were you?
A: No.
Q: And you went off the side of the road because you didn't want to get shot?
A: Yes.
Q: If your plan was not to get shot, why didn't you run back down the hill?
A: Well I would have still been in the open if I ran down the road, if that's what you mean.
Q: Because you had been in the middle of the road?
A: Yes.
Q: And to you, I take it, it didn't make sense, after or during a gunfight, to run down the middle of the road, does it?
A: No.
Q: Why didn't you just run directly across the road and jump off at the closest point you could?
A: That's pretty much what I did.
Q: Well, why didn't you just run from where your hat is at a right angle across the road, instead of running up the road maybe 15 to 20 feet?
A: I don't figure I ran up the road that far.
Q: How far up the road did you run?
A: Just a few feet, I guess.
Q: And why did you run up the road if you were afraid of being shot?
A: I was moving toward the edge.
Q: You told us you could see Leonard Peters when he said "oh fuck!" and was shot down, correct?
A: Yes.
Q: Why was it so hard to tell what direction he was facing?
A: Well, it was dark for one thing.
Q: Did you tell people at Sylvia Duncan's that they jumped out of a bush and
ambushed you?
A: I just said they ambushed us -- I didn't say they jumped out of the bushes.

Lincoln answered no to a series of questions about seeing the police vehicle, with its sheriff's star on the door and red, white and blue light bars on top.

Lull in the shooting
After he jumped off the road the gunfire continued for a couple of seconds. Then it all went quiet until the second exchange of gunfire. He didn't know, and couldn't estimate, how many shots he fired in the first exchange. Every time he fired he was standing on the road, and he fired only in semi-automatic mode. He saw no targets to fire at.

Once off the road he ran as fast as he could down the hillside, but it was steep and brushy, so he slipped, and he made noise; it was impossible to keep quiet. He doesn't know if the shooting continued because at that point he was concentrating on getting away. The creek was about 50 yards below the road, and it took him a few seconds to get there. He couldn't see very well because it was dark. He didn't hear any more gunfire. He didn't hear any yelling "11-99, 11-99 on the hill." He has no idea how long he hid in the creek bed.

Q: And why did you decide to go back to the top of the hill?
A: Well, I wanted to check on Leonard Peters; to check his condition, I didn't know if he was alive or dead.
Q: And is that the only reason you went back to the top of the hill?
A: Yes.
Q: You didn't go back, for example, to continue the firefight?
A: No.
Q: And, the only reason was to check if your friend was alive or dead?
A: Yes.
Q: At that point you thought the Brittons were over on top of the hill, correct?
A: Yes.
Q: Did you have any reason to believe that the Brittons had left in those few minutes you were down the hill?
A: Yes, it got pretty quiet, so I thought they had left.
Q: And your testimony is, I take it, that in those few minutes you did not circle around behind he deputies?
A: No, I didn't.
Q: When you came back up the hill were you making a lot of noise?
A: No, I wasn't.
Q: Were you trying to be stealthy at that point and not make noise. I was trying to be quiet.
Q: And what was the reason for that?
A: Because I didn't want to get shot.
Q: Because there was at least the possibility still that someone was still up on the hill that would try to shoot you?
A: Yes.
Q: While you were down at the creek, did you hear someone running up and down the road?
A: No, I didn't.

The second firefight
Lincoln didn't run to his family for help or to rearm himself after the first firefight because he was too concerned about Leonard Peters; "it was really hard for me to just leave him there, and everything went quiet so...." He didn't realize he had only one shot left in the rifle.

Q: Why didn't you go get your brother Eric and get more armament and go back up if you thought you might be walking into the Brittons again, heavily armed?
A: Well, I didn't think of that for one thing, and even if I did it wouldn't have been a good idea.
Q: Because?
A: Well it just seemed a dangerous situation; a man just got killed for no reason, and I wouldn't go and get my brother and take him up in the same situation.
Q: Even to help get Leonard Peters out of there?
A: Well, I went back up to check on his condition and see if I could get him out of there.

When Lincoln went back up the hill it was quiet; he didn't hear anybody say anything to the effect of "Be careful, I just want to be sure he doesn't jam us," or "go zig." He heard no sirens. He looked up the road toward the intersection and could just barely see his friend's body lying in the road. The first thing that made him aware of people in the vicinity was the gunfire.

Q: Did you see that gunfire?
A: I saw a big flashing of fire, it looked like it was in the middle of the road.
Q: How many different weapons did you see being fired at you?
A: I just saw a large explosion of fire.
Q: Could you tell if it was one or more?
A: No, I couldn't.
Q: You said you could see your friend laying in the road, but could you see a police officer standing over him?
A: No.

It sounded like more than one gun firing; he could see a large explosion of fire. It sounded like both semi and full automatic at once. It sounded like the same number of guns as in the first exchange of gunfire.

Q: How long did you stand there before you fired back?
A: I fired back right away.
Q: And how many times did you fire?
A: Well, only one round went off, but I pulled the trigger several times.
Q: What direction did you fire?
A: Towards the intersection in the road.
Q: Did you fire toward the muzzle blast you had seen?
A: I fired in that direction.
Q: Were you firing from the hip or did you have a sight picture?
A: I shot from the hip.
Q: You shot up the road?
A: Yes.
Q: Do you know if you hit anyone?
A: No.
Q: Were you trying to hit someone?
A: No, I wasn't.
Q: Why did you fire at them then?
A: To try to protect myself.
Q: And were you trying to protect yourself by not hitting the people that were firing at you?
A: Well, I didn't have a target to fire at, so I can't say I was trying to hit anything.
Q: Didn't you say you saw a muzzle blast?
A: Yes.
Q: Wasn't that a target to fire at?
A: I wouldn't call it a target.
Q: Didn't you figure there was someone standing behind that muzzle blast?
A: Yeah, somewhere around there.
Q: And isn't that a target to fire at if they're firing on you?
A: The muzzle flash covered almost the whole road.

Confusion and running for his life
Lincoln had no idea the number of shots fired at him, but "it was a lot." He jumped off the road and laid there for a little while, "trying to get as low to the ground as I could, to keep from being shot." A few seconds after the shooting stopped he thought he heard a voice say "10-99."

Q: At that point you realized that it was the police?
A: I thought it was; I heard them calling out numbers, and I didn't think the Brittons would do anything like that.
Q: Did you then surrender?
A: No, I didn't.
Q: Where did you go?
A: I went to my mother's house.
Q: Did you realize at that point that you couldn't do anything more for Leonard?
A: Yes
Q: Did you testify on direct that you thought the Brittons might still be on top of the hill at that point, even after you realized it might be the police up there, as well?
A: There was a point where I thought they might be up there together.
Q: And what point was that?
A: After the 10-99 call.
Q: And at that point you thought maybe the Brittons had teamed up with the police to fire on you?
A: It entered my mind.

Q: You had armed yourself because you were in fear of the Brittons?
A: Yes.
Q: The Brittons had not shot at you at all that day had they?
A: No.
Q: The Brittons hadn't shot at anybody that day, had they?
A: Not that I knew of.
Q: Was it your understanding that Arylis Peters had shot and killed Gene Britton?
A: We had heard that.
Q: But even though no Brittons had ever fired at Arylis or you, you felt you needed to arm yourself and walk into Covelo?
A: Yes.
Q: And that was because of the potential danger to you?
A: Yes.
Q: Wasn't there a potential danger to your family as well?
A: Not while they were at home.
Q: Even though the Brittons were on top of the hill you thought?
A: Well, at that time, yeah.
Q: Why didn't you just stay home and make sure your family was safe?
A: Because Leonard wanted to make sure his brother was safe.
Q: When you ran down the hill after the second firefight, who's the first person you saw?
A: My mother in her truck.
Q: Did you tell them there were two firefights?
A: No, I didn't say that.
Q: Did you tell them after the first firefight you had run down to the creek, and then gone back up after five minutes to check on Leonard?
A: No, I didn't.

Encounters with family and friends
Lincoln wasn't sure if he told his mother the police had fired on him. He did tell her she couldn't drive out on the road because Acorn's body was in the road on the ridge. He told her "Acorn was ambushed and killed and it was either the Brittons or the police...I forget; I was talking to different people at different times so...." At that time he wasn't sure if the Brittons and the police had teamed up.

He wasn't sure, when he got to the gate prior to that, if there was still gunfire going on. He said it was only few yards from the top of the hill to the valley floor.

After talking to his mother, Lincoln walked back down the road to his cabin, but was there for only a few seconds when he started out for Round Valley. He went out the south end of Little Valley staying on the valley floor but passing near the foot of the hill below the shooting scene. It took him an hour or two to make the long walk, stopping several times to rest. He stopped at Bunny Hoaglen's house to see if Arylis was there, but Bunny didn't know where he was. While there he heard sporadic shooting coming from top of hill; he had heard it the whole time he had been walking.

The sound of shooting continued when he reached his aunt Sylvia Duncan's house. He told everyone what had happened, but people were moving around, in and out of the house. At first he was in the front yard, then went in the house for a while. He just kept moving around because he was pretty excited at that point, as everybody there was. He wasn't talking to any individual, just everyone who was there, whoever was in hearing distance, including Winterhawk, his aunt Sylvia, his mother Lucille, his niece Debra, and some people laying on the floor. He was there "a couple of hours," but did not tell anyone the details that he had gone down to the creek then went back up to check on Leonard.

He wrote a letter to his girlfriend, Galadriel Mounce, in which he stated he was ambushed, and also stated, "They would have killed me too but they didn't see me."

Q: Which firefight were you referring to at that point?
A: Both of them.
Q: So is it your testimony then, that the police did NOT see you during the second firefight?
A: Well they must have seen me on the second one, that's why they started firing.
Q: Okay, then which firefight were you referring to when you stated that they never saw me?
A: Well, it was referring to the whole gist of it; it was all one firefight to me; I didn't break it up into two firefights.
Q: And your opinion as of the evening of the 14th or the early morning of the 15th was that the police never saw you during either firefight. No I'm talking about, I guess, the first one.
Q: Okay, then during the first firefight you were running across and up the road firing in the general direction of where you thought the firing was coming from, correct?
A: Yes.
Q: And you thought at that point that they didn't see you running across the road?
A: Well since I couldn't see them, maybe they couldn't see me.

Q: Did you intend to kill the police when you fired at them during the second firefight?
A: No, I didn't.
Q: Did you intend to kill Bob Davis?
A: No.
Q: Did you know Davis at the time?
A: I knew who he was.
Q: So you recognized him on sight?
A: Yes.
Q: Did you bear ill will towards the sheriff's department?
A: No.
Q: Is there a reason why in Exhibit 110, you referred to "that's why the pigs started heading up that way;" is there a reason you referred to them as "the pigs?"
A: It's a common slang word for police officers.
Q: So to you, does that slang word connote any ill will towards the police?
A: No, it doesn't.
Q: It's just a common slang word for cops or police?
A: Yeah.

In that same letter, he was critical of Les and Jenai Lincoln as well, writing, "They did a tape recorded interview with Les and Jenai as soon as they were picked up. They spilled their guts and told the police that Arylis shot Gene Britton and they dropped him off in Little Valley."

Q: Are you here today to tell us the truth of what happened?
A: Yes, I am.
Q: Why do you want to tell us the truth here?
A: Well, because Leonard Peters was murdered by the sheriff's department in an ambush, and Leonard Peters and myself are being accused of ambushing the police, and it didn't happen like that.
Q: And you want to make sure that his crime is cleared up, correct?
A: Yes.
Q: Why were you angry with Les and Jenai for telling the truth about who shot Gene Britton?
A: Well because I thought they had a part in Leonard Peters being killed.
Q: You were angry at Les and Jenai for "spilling their guts" about what happened between Arylis and Gene, correct?
A: Yes.
Q: But you're here today, stating that in the crime you're charged with, you want to tell us the truth; you don't want the truth to be covered up?
A: No, I don't.

End of cross-exam
As it turned out, this was the last question and answer of the cross-examination. Williams told the judge he wanted to base his last questions on a letter Lincoln had mailed from jail to his girlfriend. Serra objected to using the intercepted letter. Williams said he had no other matters to question Lincoln on, except for this letter, so Judge Golden sent the jury home for the weekend.

Earlier, at the beginning of the afternoon session, Serra had objected to Williams using any of Lincoln's personal letters from jail. The objection did not apply to Lincoln's letters to the editor published in the Monitor and the Anderson Valley Advertiser. The objection was that the document was posted to the U.S. Mail and was then intercepted and photocopied in a way that violated Lincoln's 4th amendment expectation of privacy. Further, he said, there's no foundation for the use of it at all; it's hearsay, it's meandering, and it's irrelevant.

Williams claimed that Lincoln admitted something in the letter. Serra argued that in the letter Lincoln was pondering whether to take the stand, "as every defendant in the U.S. does."

When court resumed on Monday, September 8, Judge Golden promptly granted the defense motion, barring Williams from using any of Lincoln's personal letters from jail as evidence or in cross-examination. So when the afternoon session began, Williams had no further questions for Lincoln, and the cross-examination was officially over. The defense declined the opportunity for re-direct examination, and Lincoln's testimony was finished.

Spectators ejected from court
In other courtroom news, before the jury reentered the courtroom following a recess during cross-examination, Judge Golden admonished the courtroom spectators not to let the jury hear any sound or see any facial expression in reaction to what happened in court. He said he had received reports that some of this had happened.

One casualty of this stern vigilance was the ejection of Alicia Littletree, host of KZYX radio's Community Activist Alert. Her version of what happened is that she was sitting directly behind Sheriff James Tuso. A woman behind her made a remark, and just as Ms. Littletree turned around to shush the errant talker the sheriff also turned around to see who was talking. Apparently he thought the violator was Littletree, and told one of the guards, who ejected her. In addition three young members of the Lincoln legal team who had been in the audience were also ejected for talking. Those ejected are barred from the courtroom for the rest of the trial, but after a hearing the following Monday morning attorney William Welch was readmitted.

Also in other unfinished business, a federal constitutional lawsuit by the Lincoln defense against Mendocino County Superior Court to overturn Judge Golden's gag order was filed in late August in federal district court in San Francisco. The case is being heard by Judge Vaughn Walker, who has set a hearing for Friday September 19. Lincoln's attorneys requested a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that would immediately suspend enforcement of the gag order.

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