bureaucracybusters

WHEN WHITES WERE TARGETS: PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 18, 2016 at 12:05 am

On April 22, 1974, a break finally came in the “Zebra killers” case.

Anthony Cornelius Harris, a member of the Nation of Islam–otherwise known as the Black Muslims–came forward as a police witness.

Before doing so, he visited the parents of his close friend, Larry Craig Green–who was one of the “Zebra” killers. He hoped that, through Green’s mother, he could persuade his comrade to go with him to the police as a witness against the other three Death Angels.

While at the home of Green’s parents, he called Green.

“I knew right there it was impossible to get him to admit to doing anything,” Harris later testified. “He told me to get the hell out of his house and never to come back.”

Later, Harris phoned the Black Self-Help moving and storage company where he had been working for the last six months.

One of the Muslims he spoke with was Green, who warned him: “Man, they’ve got a contract out to kill you, your wife and the baby.”

It was then that Harris realized that he, his wife, Debra, and their newborn son had been marked for death by his former friends. There was nowhere else to go but the police if he wanted to stay alive.

So, on April 22, 1974, he came forward as a police witness.

Many police believed Harris had been one of the killers himself.  He bore a strong resemblance to the suspect in a police artist’s sketch: A young black man with a short Afro and pointed chin.

Related image

Police composite sketch of “the Zebra killer”

But Harris insisted that he hadn’t murdered anyone, and that he had resisted efforts by his friends to enlist him in their murder spree. He claimed to fear for his life at the hands of his fellow Muslims.

The police immediately placed Harris and his family under round-the-clock guard.

At 5 a.m. on the morning of May 1, 1974, more than 100 police officers assembled at the San Francisco Hall of Justice. They were heavily armed–with shotguns, submachineguns and automatic rifles.

Their assignment: Arrest seven men believed responsible for the brutal series of murders known as the “Zebra” case.

At a given signal, police charged into the various homes and apartments where the suspects lay sleeping.  None of the wanted men offered any resistance.

Three of the seven were soon release for lack of evidence.  The remaining three–Larry Craig Green, Manuel Moore and J.C. Simon–were held at high bond.

A fourth suspect, Jessie Lee Cooks, was already serving a life sentence in prison for his admitted murder of Frances Rose, a physical therapist, on October 30, 1973.

Cooks would be charged with other “Zebra” murders by a San Francisco grand jury on May 16, 1974.

Chief Assistant District Attorney W.H. Guibbini asked for high bail for three of the suspects after their indictment.  Presiding Superior Court Judge Clayton V. Horn raised it to $300,000 each.

The accused killers remained in jail before and during their trial.

The trial began on March 3, 1975, and lasted longer than any previous one in the history of California–376 days. Testimony from 181 witnesses–115 for the prosecution–filled 13,331 pages of trial transcript.

San Francisco Superior Court

The Nation of Islam paid for the legal representation of every one of the defendants except Cooks, who had admitted to murdering Frances Rose. 

During his testimony as a prosecution witness, Harris was guarded constantly by San Francisco police. 

When the SFPD’s resources began to be strained, Harris was placed on the Witness Security Program, operated by the U.S. Marshals Service for the Justice Department. Originally created to safeguard Mafia witnesses, it offers protection, relocation and new identities to those who testify against organized crime groups.  

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Deputy U.S. marshals guarding a witness while testifying before Congress

Harris was flown to Houston, Texas, and kept under the watchful eye of the local police. From there he moved to El Paso, and then on to Las Vegas.

He proved a difficult witness to protect. Refusing to take a job suitable for his menial work skills, he demanded ever-increasing amounts of subsistence money from, first, the SFPD, and, later, the U.S. Marshals Service. At times he threatened to recant his testimony unless he got more subsistence payments.

After the trial, Harris received a portion of the $30,000 reward. Eventually he turned up in Oakland, and then ultimately disappeared.

On March 13, 1976, Larry Craig Green, Manuel Moore, Jessie Lee Cooks and J.C. Simon were convicted of multiple murders. All were sentenced to life in state prison, where they remain today.

The toll of victims taken by the “Zebra” killers had been staggering:

  • Sixteen murdered
  • Five wounded
  • One raped
  • The attempted kidnapping of three children

At the time of sentencing, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Joseph Karesh turned to a wall map showing where each of the murders had taken place.

“As I look at this map and see all these dots,” said Karesh, “I hope we do not forget all these people who have been reduced to dots.”

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