SAN RAFAEL, Calif. -- A San Quentin Prison guard said he made only a visual check of inmate George Jackson's Afro-style hair on the day in 1971 when lawyer Stephen Bingham is accused of smuggling a gun to the black activist.
Prison officials have said Jackson carried the gun back from the visiting room under an Afro wig. Officials said discovery of the weapon by a guard led to gunfire and stabbings that left Jackson, two other inmates and three guards dead.
Bingham, 43, former civil rights lawyer and scion of a prominent Connecticut family, is on trial before a Marin County Superior Court jury on two charges of murder and one of conspiracy. He went into hiding the day of the violent outbreak and surrendered two years ago.
The prosecution contends he gave Jackson the gun that led to the bloodiest day in the prison's history. The attorney, who was investigating prison reform, had visited Jackson shortly before the outbreak.
Prosecution witness Edward Fleming, a retired prison guard, testified Tuesday that he gave Jackson's hair a 'good visible' search before the inmate entered the visiting room on Aug. 21, 1971, but that he did not run his hands through it because he did not want 'to mess it up.'
Jackson, a prison activist, was awaiting trial on charges of killing a guard at the state prison in Soledad.
Fleming said during cross-examination that before meeting Bingham, Jackson was given a 'strip search' in the adjustment center, where the prison's toughest inmates live. Fleming said he gave the convict a 'pat' search upon his arrival at the visiting area, adding he did not detect anything suspicious in Jackson's demeanor.
Under questioning by defense lawyers, Fleming, who is black, said he was afraid his superiors suspected he was as part of a plot to break Jackson out of the prison, so he originally had indicated he did check the convict's hair. His recorded statement was taken within a few days of the outbreak and he later corrected the testimony, Fleming said.
Defense lawyer Gerald Schwartzbach also asked Fleming if another guard had warned him that Jackson might try to escape.
'Yes,' said Fleming.
'Did you think they thought you might be part of a plot to smuggle in a gun to Jackson?' Schwartzabach asked.
'Yes I did,' Fleming testified.
The defense attorney asked whether Fleming thought there was a question of racism because he and Jackson were both black.
'Yes I did,' Fleming responded.