Albion Monitor /News

Jury Begins Debate, D.A. Charged With Contempt

by Nicholas Wilson

on "Bear" Lincoln Case

report from the courtroom

UKIAH, CA -- While the jury took Friday off after two days of deliberations in the murder trial of "Bear" Lincoln, a packed courtroom heard defense attorneys charge District Attorney Susan Massini with contempt of court for violating the strict gag order by providing repeated comments and leaks to Mike Geniella, reporter for the Press Democrat of Santa Rosa.

Jury deliberations began Wednesday morning, September 17, following two days of defense and prosecution closing arguments. The jury spent much of the afternoon of the first day listening to a replay in the courtroom of the tapes which are in evidence: Deputy Miller's pocket tape, the sheriff's dispatch tape, Deputy Miller's first interview with Detective Duenas seven or eight hours after the shootings, and the forced interview by Detective Gourley of Bear Lincoln's juvenile nephew Winterhawk Lincoln. Lincoln's family, spectators and media filled the courtroom as they have every day of the trial.

On Thursday, the jury asked if they could closely examine some of the physical evidence exhibits, which are in the jury deliberation room for their use. Judge Golden told them they could do that, but to be sure to put things like cartridge casings back in to their bags and reseal them with the help of the bailiff.

Massini's lawyer said this had occurred before she was served with the current version of the gag order, and therefore it was technically not in violation
The jury elected not to deliberate on Friday, but in court there was a hearing before visiting judge Carlos Baker on the contempt of court defense motion against Massini. Again the courtroom almost entirely occupied by family, the public, and media. The motion was argued by Lincoln attorney Philip DeJong, and D.A. Massini was represented by deputy county counsel Janeen Nadel.

Geniella was called to the witness stand, but was represented by Press Democrat attorney Richard Freeman. Freeman advised Geniella not to answer anything beyond identifying a xerox copy of his newspaper articles as authentic copies, invoking the California Reporter Shield Law privilege protecting members of the press from having to identify confidential sources. Geniella followed that advice, and refused to answer DeJong's question whether he had spoken to Mrs. Massini to obtain the direct quotes attributed to her in his article. Judge Baker, after listening to lengthy arguments between DeJong and Freeman, ruled to uphold Geniella's use of the reporter's shield law.

Massini took the stand although her attorney said that, since this was a criminal contempt of court hearing, she didn't have to. Massini was questioned about her comments in a Geniella story deploring the timing of the start of KZYX radio broadcasts of the trial, which coincidentally began simultaneously with the start of the defense case. Massini stated that although she knew there was a gag order which barred any comment about the trial, she considered the comment mainly about the radio station rather than the trial. Regarding a September 10 story in which she praised deputies Davis and Miller and stated that there had been no complaints received about them, Massini said she had made these comments prior to being served with the gag order.

A third allegation of contempt arose from an August article in which she commented about alleged jury tampering by sheriff's correctional officers. Massini's lawyer said this had occurred before she was served with the current version of the gag order, and therefore it was technically not in violation of the gag order. In fact the current version is an extremely minor modification of the earlier one, differing only in the deletion of one sentence. Nevertheless, Judge Baker allowed this objection to stand.

DeJong ended by asking that Mrs. Massini be held in contempt, saying he had met his burden of proof. The hearing concluded with the matter submitted to the judge for a decision at a later time. Judge Baker promised a decision "soon."

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Albion Monitor September 19, 1997 (

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