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.