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.

Andrews says he can't recall whether he was told by the FBI that Geter claimed to have seen both murders. Lefcourt says he believes him, that he thinks both he and the prosecutor are being bamboozled by the feds. The FBI, the defense attorney implies, is hiding things Lefcourt could use to impeach government witnesses. The FBI, he suggests, is playing dirty pool.

Throughout the trial, Lefcourt has complained that he has not been given the full story about benefits the witnesses received in exchange for their testimony. This newest revelation, however, sets Judge Dondero off. He temporarily postpones the trial and orders a special hearing to sort out all the compensation and deals related to prosecution testimony in the Temple case.

A parade of cops takes the stand in an afternoon-long hearing. They lay bare all the payments and plea bargains and other arrangements with the state's witnesses. It is information that prosecutors should have revealed to the defense well in advance of the trial.

"About 30 percent of what I heard in that hearing I didn't know, and I should have known," Lefcourt says later in an interview.

Lefcourt calls Temple's wife, Monique, Monique's mother, and one of Temple's friends to the stand. They all provide Temple with an alibi for the Mullins murder. It seems no more credible than Geter's testimony, but their assertions do not, in the end, matter much. For the most part, the jury's mind is made up: The FBI and the SFPD went too far and had shady motives. The state's witnesses lied to get their deals.

In his closing remarks, Andrews admits his witnesses are scum. He calls them disgusting but necessary cockroaches. He says Geter is a "dopehead" who has the mind of a child. He admits they are liars. But he tries to give the jury a reason for their lies, their contradictory testimony, a reason other than FBI money and deals on cases: fear. He tries to get the jurors to focus on the parts of testimony that are indeed credible.

It's a stirring and articulately rendered speech, and Andrews means every word of it. None of it, however, has any impact whatsoever.

On Nov. 5, after three days of deliberations, the jury fulfills Bernard Temple's holding-cell prediction and finds him innocent.

The next day, Andrews walks into a courtroom with Kel Magee, the snitch who turned on the state and helped annihilate the cases against Bernard Temple, and asks a judge to reduce his three-year prison sentence to the time Magee has already served. The prosecutor doesn't want to send Magee to the pen wearing a snitch jacket.

"I didn't want his death on my hands," the prosecutor says later. The judge complies with Andrews' request and sets the lying loser Kel Magee free.

Jeff Medeiros, the foreman of the jury that acquitted Bernard Temple, says the vote was nine to three for acquittal the second the jury retired to deliberate. He says the deals made with informants, the money they were paid, and the involvement of the FBI in the murder cases were the controlling factors in most jurors' minds when they decided to acquit Temple.

"They were all liars," Medeiros says of the government witnesses. He says the jury thought the witnesses may have been afraid but, he hastens to add, fear was not considered a credible explanation for the shaky testimony and the many favors the government did for its informants.

"It was the cases," he says of why Geter's testimony was discarded by the jurors. "It was all those cases he was never prosecuted on."

Another juror, who declines to be identified, says this prevailing mind-set -- that deals were a quid pro quo for information, rather than a vaccine against sheer terror -- was a direct result of the jury's racial composition. (While trying to impeach eyewitness testimony that Temple had murdered Jacky Williams, Lefcourt stressed that in 1991 Temple's hair was done up geri-curl style, which was not the way witnesses described the hair of Jacky Williams' killer. Jurors were so unfamiliar with the way life is lived in black neighborhoods that they didn't understand what a geri-curl was. "The jurors kept saying 'Cherry-Girl' in deliberations," the juror says.)

Andrews goes further. "It's racist," he says of the jury's inability to see that government deals and shaky informant testimony were products of a different world, a world jurors should have tried harder to understand.

After a month off, Andrews is back in his office, which looks more like a messy dorm room than the workplace of a gang prosecutor. He's still dumbfounded that the jury did not believe fear could motivate wildly contradictory testimony, and even lying. After all, he points out, what was it Geter lied about? He lied about being a snitch, about what would cause him the most trouble down on Third Street. Andrews recalls the amazing first day, when all the thugs came down to intimidate the witnesses.

"You'd think the jury would have seen that," he says. (They did. That's why one of the jurors interviewed for this article asked that her name not be used.)

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.