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Page 10
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Lawton Trial Set--Jan. 6


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The third trial of Gary Lawton (member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War/Winter Soldier Organization) is to begin on Jan. 6th. Lawton, a black man, is charged with the murder of two Riverside, California policemen who were ambushed in April, 1971. The 2 previous trials on these charges resulted in hung juries, with a majority of jurors voting acquittal.

Since the conclusion of Lawton's second trial in Nov. 1973, there have been many developments surrounding this case. Charges against Gary's co defendant, Zurebu Gardner, were dropped in Oct. 1974, because the District Attorney stated (after 3 years!) there was a lack of evidence. Though this dropping of charges is a real victory, other charges have been brought against members of the Riverside Political Prisoners Defense Committee. In March, members of the RPPDG and VVAW/WSO were at the Riverside courthouse to show support for another RPPDC member, William Palmer, who was on trial for assault on a police officer. While at the courthouse, Chukia Lawton (Gary's wife), Zurebu Gardner and Rusty Bronaugh were brutally attacked by police. Gardner was beaten by 7 cops, Chukia was choked unconscious and all three were arrested. Since then, Rusty and Chukia have undergone a 3-week misdemeanor trial which ended in a hung jury. A retrial is set to being on Jan. 13th.

The third trial of Gary Lawton began on Nov. 12th, but a shooting near the courthouse led to the most recent postponement of the trial until January. On Nov. 13th, Jerald Monroe was stopped by police about two blocks from the courthouse. He shot and killed Officer Larry Walters, and in turn, Monroe was killed by other cops on the scene. Because this shooting occurred near a parking lot, some of the prospective jurors for Chukia and Rusty's trial witnessed the killings. Gun fire was heard in the jury room and discussed by prospective jurors for Lawton's trial. The defense felt that this shooting of a Riverside policeman would prejudice the jurors against Lawton, as would the news coverage of the killings. Walters is the third Riverside policeman to be killed in the line of duty in 28 years. The others are Christianson and Teel, whom Lawton is accused of murdering.

The continued frame-up trial of Gary Lawton and the repression in Riverside is not separate or isolated from the rest of the country, but is part of the increased nationwide attacks against Black, Chicano, Native American, Asian and white working people. There was Operation Zebra in San Fransisco, where every Black man was stopped and searched by police. There is the continued attempt by the government, Teamsters Union and growers to smash the United Farm Workers. There was the murder of Tyrone Guyton, a 14-year-old black youth who was gunned down by police in California's Bay Area. There are the decade-long trials of Ruchell Magee in California and Martin Sostre in New York.

These are not isolated government attacks, but part and parcel of an overall attack on minority people in particular, and poor and working people in general. At the same time, as the crisis in the economy increases, the burden for keeping high profits of the corporate owners will more and more fall on the backs of the people of this country. The government knows this and will try its best to intimidate people into submissiveness and a fear of fighting back against their oppression.

One thing that has been learned through the four-year struggle to free Gary Lawton is that there is no justice in the Judicial system; that the state is not a neutral bystander insuring equality; and that one needs more than a good lawyer to beat a trumped-up charge. Another thing that has been learned as to why the struggle to free Lawton has come as far as it has is because of the mass struggle and support of the people of this country. This is what will free Gary Lawton! Today, that support is needed more than ever as the third trial approaches. For the much needed contributions and for more information, contact: RPPDC, PO Box 244, Riverside California 92502.


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