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A killing and a homicide arrest early last month most likely destroyed one of two murder indictments pending against Temple. And the other murder charge against Temple is increasingly undermined by shaky testimony and severe witness credibility problems.
Law enforcement authorities consider Temple -- an alleged multiple assassin who has told associates he kills because doing so allows him to absorb the spiritual powers of his victims -- one of the most violent forces in the drug-gang wars that have long plagued the Bayview-Hunters Point section of San Francisco.
"Temple will perform a contract murder for approximately $1,000," FBI special agent Thomas J. LaFreniere wrote his superiors in 1994. "Source [a confidential informant] is aware of approximately six homicides that Temple has been involved in."
Now, death, crime, and fear make it increasingly likely that Temple will beat two murder charges against him and go free.
Cedric Geter and Lawrence Broussard were the only grand jury witnesses to testify that they had seen Bernard Temple kill Jacky Williams in 1991. Police believe that a drug dealer hired Temple to kill Williams because he had robbed the dealer. The testimony of Geter and Broussard was considered crucial to the prosecution of Temple for Williams' death.
On April 2, Geter, a former gang associate of Temple, was arrested and charged with the murder of Anthony Mims, a San Francisco resident who appears to have had no local criminal record. That arrest instantly turned Geter from a shaky witness into a complete prosecutorial liability.
Four days later, Broussard, Temple's brother-in-law, was shot and killed by a still-unknown assailant, abruptly ending his short career as a state witness and leaving the prosecution with no viable eyewitnesses to the Jacky Williams murder.
The other murder charge against Temple -- stemming from the 1988 slaying of Walter Mullins -- also appears to be in serious legal trouble.
The star prosecution witness in the Mullins case is Kel Magee, a career criminal with a penchant for drug dealing, wife beating, fugitive flights, and robbery.
Since testifying under oath that he saw Temple murder Mullins, Magee has done most everything imaginable to hurt his already low credibility as a state witness.
As a Sept. 2 trial date approaches, Magee can't decide exactly what he saw on the night of Oct. 29, 1988, when, police allege, Temple slipped on a hockey mask, slipped up behind Mullins and pumped a shot into his head, also in apparent retaliation for theft from drug dealers.
Three months after Magee gave muddled grand jury testimony that implicated Temple in the murder, he called Temple's attorney, V. Roy Lefcourt, and signed a declaration saying he lied. Magee also claimed that police and federal agents had coerced his testimony; Lefcourt subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the murder charge against Temple.
At the hearing on that motion last month, Magee found himself in a sticky situation. He could recant his grand jury testimony against Temple, but in doing so he would essentially convict himself of perjury before a grand jury. Or he could testify under oath that he'd lied in the sworn declaration that recanted his grand jury testimony -- again, all but admitting to perjury. Either way, Magee would be charged with a felony, and because Magee is already on probation for domestic violence, such a charge would probably send him to prison.
So Magee did the only reasonable thing: He took the Fifth.
The Superior Court hearing on Magee's varying testimony about the Mullins murder was, to describe it mildly, bizarre.
Andrews's first question after calling Magee to the stand seemed simple enough: "Do you recall testifying before the grand jury?"
But Magee was not about to abandon his constitutional right not to incriminate himself. At least, not right away.
"I decline to answer any questions right now," he said. "I take the Fifth Amendment on questioning."
Andrews: "Did you provide a declaration under penalty of perjury?"
Magee: "I will take the Fifth on questioning."
Andrews: "Have you provided special information to agent Thomas LaFreniere concerning activities of Bernard Temple?"
Magee: "I take the Fifth on advice of my counsel."
Magee, of course, also refused to answer the questions put to him by Lefcourt, the attorney for whom he voluntarily recanted his grand jury testimony.
Then, oddly, Magee started ignoring the advice of his own lawyer, Ken Quigley.
Rather than continuing to assert his Fifth Amendment rights, Magee asked to make a statement to the court. Quigley squirmed and grimaced. The judge admonished Magee to listen to his lawyer -- who wanted Magee to take the Fifth to every question and then shut up.
Magee asserted his rights for a while, but then began asking, in almost incomprehensible sentence fragments, if all the attorneys in the court could get together and reach an agreement that would allow him to testify.
Magee was clearly fishing for immunity.
And Lefcourt made the highly unusual request that the judge grant Magee immunity of his own volition. The judge declined to take such an unusual step, and also refused Lefcourt's motion to dismiss the murder charge against Temple.