Date: Tue, 10 Nov 1998 22:31:15 -0600 (CST)
/** reg.carib: 215.0 **/
The injustice of the trial
By Atty. Lennex Hinds, Covert Action Quarterly, [26 October 1998]
Assata was convicted in New Jersey as an accomplice to the murder of State Trooper Werner Foerster and of atrocious assault on James Harper with the intent to kill. Under NJ law, if a person's presence at the scene can be construed as "aiding and abetting" the crime, that person can be convicted of the substantive crime itself.
The state of NJ convicted Sundiata Acoli for these same murders after Assata was severed from the proceedings because of her pregnancy. The jury at Assata's trial for the same offences was permitted to speculate that her "mere presence" at a scene of violence, with weapons in the vehicle, was sufficient to sustain a conviction -even though three neurologists testified at the trial that her median nerve had been severed by gunshot wounds, rendering her unable to pull a trigger, and that her clavicle had been shattered by a shot that could only have been made while she was seated in the car with her hands raised.
Other experts testified that a neutron activation analysis adminstered by the police right after the shootout showed no gun residue on her fingers, meaning she had not shot a weapon.
She was also convicted of possession of weapons -none of which could be identified as having been handled by her -and of the attempted murder of state trooper Harper, who had sustained a minor injury at the shootout.
It had been and is in my view that it was the racism in Middlesex County, fueled by biased inflammatory publicity in the local press before and throughout the trial, fanned by the documented government lawlessness, that made it possible for the white jury to convict Assata on the uncorroborated, contradictory, and generally incredible testimony of trooper Harper, the only other witness to the events on the Turnpike.
Harper's testimony as well as that of all the other state's witnesses was riddled with inconsistencies and discrepancies. On three separate official reports, including his grand jury testimony, Harper said that he saw Assata take a gun from her pocketbook, while in the car, and shoot him. He admitted on cross-examination during both Sundiata's and Assata's trial, that he never saw Assata with a gun and did not see her shoot him -that, in fact, he lied.