Trial by Liar

The snitches mumbled, stumbled, equivocated, and perjured themselves The jury found Bernard Temple -- the man prosecutors believed to be a bloodthirsty assassin for drug dealers -- not guilty of murder.

Asked if he's an informant for the federal government, asked if he's an informant for the SFPD, asked if he's a snitch for any law enforcement authority, Cedric Geter says no.

But he is an informant for both the SFPD and the FBI. He has just perjured himself.

Geter is not done ruining the district attorney's case. Lefcourt has Geter testify about the dramatic number of criminal cases he's been involved in that, somehow, never made it to trial. Of course, the implication is that the FBI and SFPD are excusing his criminal conduct just because he's an informant. And the jury buys it.

Oddly, Geter testifies with certainty about seeing Bernard Temple shoot Jacky Williams. He says he was on the street that day, near the corner store at Fitzgerald and Jennings where Williams was murdered. Geter says he was there selling drugs. He tries to convince the court of an altruistic motive for his testimony, claiming Williams was like a brother to him. "He taught me how to steal cars," Geter says.

But Geter has another trick up his sleeve, yet another way to undermine himself, and the prosecution's case. He fails to return to the stand after a short recess in the trial.

A shaken Andrews must move on to other witnesses in the Jacky Williams case.
A woman who is supposed to connect Temple to the car used in the Williams killing and a man who supposedly witnessed the murder have huge holes in their testimony. Both have told contradictory stories over the years. Lefcourt tears them to shreds. For the most part, jurors later say, the jury discounts the testimony.

Then Geter finds his way back to court. Lefcourt accuses him of being on drugs, which, given his appearance and demeanor, seems entirely possible. He's allowed to testify some more. He admits he lied about being an informant for the government.

The prosecution presents two more purported eyewitnesses to the Williams killing. Their names have been provided by Geter. Andrews desperately needs to clean up the Geter mess. All he gets is more mess.

One witness, Anthony Starkes, is doing 86 years for car-jacking. He gets up on the stand and says, no, contrary to what he told police in a prison interview, he most certainly did not see Temple shoot Williams.

Since the Temple case is the undeniable product of an FBI investigation, Andrews can't avoid putting LaFreniere on the stand.

LaFreniere tells the court of the money paid to Magee, of the favors done, of the cases where he and other federal officials intervened in order to win cooperation:

How they helped a violent career criminal avoid 25 years to life in prison.
How they helped him avoid the imposition of a five-year suspended sentence.
How they gave him $17,000.

By the end of LaFreniere's testimony, the jury understands that Magee was saved from hard time not once, but twice by the federal government, which also paid him a remarkable amount of money. These facts, delivered unashamedly by LaFreniere, create an impression: The incentive for Magee to lie is massive. The incentive for him to tell the truth ... well, that hasn't even been explained.

The prosecution rests its case after LaFreniere leaves the stand. Lefcourt immediately begins hammering the bloody pulp that once was Cedric Geter. The defense attorney has already made him out to be a liar and junkie. Now he's going to make him look like a killer, too.

Anticipating this strategy, Andrews had put the prosecutor who decided to drop murder charges against Geter on the stand during the state's portion of the case. That prosecutor, John Farrell, said he dismissed the case because he had heard contradictory testimony coming from one of his witnesses.

Now, though, Lefcourt has his turn and calls Deputy Public Defender Peter Keane, who lends expert credibility to the argument that Geter was let off on a murder charge so he could be used as a witness against Temple.

Says Keane, "My opinion is that based upon what I read in the preliminary hearing and the evidence that existed against Mr. Geter, that the decision to not charge Mr. Geter, to my mind, could only be justified on the basis of Mr. Geter getting some reward for the -- from the authorities for something he's doing for them."

Lefcourt moves on to the FBI. He's found more material with which to taint the agency.

The previous week he had asked LaFreniere for the identity of a confidential witness in a specific FBI report on the Mullins killing. The unnamed witness told the FBI he saw Temple kill Mullins. LaFreniere says the informant is none other than Cedric Geter.

Suddenly it's revealed that Geter, already known to the jury as a sleazy liar and a probable drug addict and killer, told the FBI he saw the murders of both Williams and Mullins -- and the prosecution is using him in only one of the cases, the Williams homicide.

This odd state of affairs raises disturbing questions: Did Andrews know that his witness once claimed to have seen both murders? If so, why didn't he use him in both cases? Did he doubt his claims about witnessing the Mullins murder? If he didn't believe him on one case, what made him believe Geter on the other? Or is it that Andrews realized no jury would ever buy the argument that one person saw two murders committed by the same person three years apart?

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