Public Hearing #2 of the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission
August 27, 2005 Greensboro, North Carolina
Italics: Commission members
RC: Robert Cahoon
HG: Harold Greeson
PW: Percy Wall
Commissioner: At this time we will invite Robert Cahoon, Harold Greeson, and Percy Wall to come down and join us for our second panel discussion. And as they come let me say that we are particularly pleased and honored to have three of our community’s most respected attorneys. Among the three of them about one hundred and fifty eight years of practice of law, that may be off by a year or two. But these were gentlemen who were selected by, the way the legal process works, to serve as defense attorneys for those charged after the shootings. And we are all very anxious to hear what you have to tell us about your work as attorneys and your work. We know you put in many, many hours of labor on that task, so if we may let each of you speak in turn, we will come back and ask follow up questions. So who will lead? PW: I will.
HG: Oh, I thought Bob was.
PW: This is a well organized defense team. Can you hear? Raise your hand if you can’t. Commander chairman and members of the commission I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to appear here today before this commission. As you heard I am a practicing attorney here in Greensboro. I am now retired but practiced law here for some 54 years.
On the Tuesday morning following the events of Nov 3rd 1979 I was appointed by a superior court judge to represent David Mathews. David was one of the defendants charged as a result of the Nov 3rd incident. Mr. Matthews was charged with several accounts of first degree murder. The court determined that he was indigent and unable to hire private council. For the following ten months I spent my time explicitly representing David Matthews.
In addition to David there were five other defendants being tried, as a result of Nov 3rd. All the other defendants likewise were represented by court appointed attorneys due to indigency. All the other attorneys likewise spent full time representing their clients. Early on Judge Jim Long, and you heard from him yesterday. He use to live up around Pilot Mountain. He is an experienced, strait laced, no nonsense superior court judge who was appointed to monitor all proceedings including the hearing of motions and to conduct the trial. This he did with dispatch and a firm hand.
The case was called for trial here in Greensboro in late May or early June of 1980 and in the six months preceding trial the defendant’s attorneys met almost daily weighing and sifting the evidence and exchanging thoughts and strategies. If there was any evidence that was not uncovered by this group I’d be surprised. I certainly don’t know what it could be.
The district attorney determined that the defendants would be tried for the capital offence of first degree murder, seeking the death penalty. There will be more said about that later.
During the course of the trial, which was bitterly contested, the jury heard every shred of evidence pertaining to the Nov 3rd incident, evidence from both the state and the defense. All witnesses testified under oath, and were cross examined extensively. Expert witnesses testified extensively from both sides and were cross examined extensively. These experts included FBI and SBI agents. Certainly all of them were professionals. They concluded, among other things, that during the 88 seconds an exact number of shots were fired by the Communists and by the Klan. They concluded that 21 shots were fired by the Klan, and 18 shots fired by the Communists. Not only that, but the experts were able to show, and demonstrate to the jury there in the court room where each shot was fired from. And in many instances, who fired the shots.
After hearing all the sworn testimony, after reviewing hundreds of documents and items of physical evidence, all of which had been duly admitted by the presiding judge, the jury returned its verdict of not guilty. That was after a trial of many many weeks, you heard about that from Judge Long here yesterday. Now in a few sentences I have given you an over view of the preliminaries, the trial, and the verdict. In all candor I must admit that after 25 years my memory may have failed me. However there is one thing of which I am absolutely sure, members of the panel, a record or transcript of the entire trial, and all proceedings connected with it were made, and is available to this commission. I have previously related this to representatives of the commission. I feel that in good faith and in fairness to all parties the commission should acknowledge whether or not it has a record of transcript of the trial. And if not, why not? If it has the transcript, than I urge the commission, in fairness, that it become a part of this proceeding. That transcript, that transcript, that record, contains all questions to, and answers by each respected juror. That transcript contains every word, every word, of each witness. People who were present at the altercation, and had first hand knowledge of what happened. That transcript, that record, contains all the evidence relating to who fired the shots and where and when the shots were fired. That transcript tells us what happened on Nov 3rd, 1979. That transcript tells us, that transcript is the history of this case.
Ladies and gentlemen I respect and accept in good faith, your quest for the truth as to what happened and why on Nov 3rd 1979. I submit that your search must include a thorough knowledge and understanding of the events of before, on, and after Nov 3rd 1979, as related in the transcript by people who were there, and by people who had first hand knowledge of what happened. And I submit that only then can the truth be known. I yield to Mr. Cahoon.
Thank you Mr. Cahoon
BC: They started out with Percy, because they made the mistake during the trial of starting with me. When we had the trial back in 1979, back in 1980, then I was to represent the defendants, we all were all court appointed. And we represented individuals, not one of us represented the Ku Klux Klan or Nazi the American Nazi party, we represented individuals, who, who ignorant folk, who being misguided or whatever, were members of those organizations. Not about those organizations. I personally have nothing in the world but contempt for the KKK and the American Nazi party or any other Nazi party. Anybody who lived through World War Two could have no other viewpoint. Nazi, we couldn’t understand how anyone could join such an organization. But we weren’t representing organizations, we were representing individuals who had been charged with murder, and we did our very best.
Each of the defendants related what he knew about Nov 3rd and each one told, separately, a consistent story and there was no conflict between them you know. It just happened that each one told a story that fit in perfectly with the other. And they did so without any opportunity to talk to each other because they had been arrested. Taken to jail and questioned separately without the opportunity to talk to each other ahead of time. And the police took down what they said. And during the trial they had to furnish whose statements they were. And they were absolutely consistent with their testimony and with the theory they had about self defense. And this is what each, everyone of them told, with certain variations about where they were and why they were doing.
They told, most of them told first about on having been on July 8th 1979 being at China Grove North Carolina, where they were watching a movie called, A Birth of a Nation. And they were there approached by a group of people who belonged to the Workers Viewpoint Organization, (WVO) which would later be called the Communist Workers Party. And that group includes Dr. James Waller, Raymond Manzella, Nelson Johnson, Ceasar Cauce, Dr. Bermanhzon, Dr. Nathan, Sandra Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Alley, Dora Blitz and others, who were wearing hard hats, some of them maybe not all of them and who were armed with clubs and fire arms, including shot guns. And this group of people approached them and were screaming at them and threaten ‘em and threatened to kill ‘em. And there happened to be some sheriff officers present and the Sheriff officers urged these Klansmen to with draw, to go into a building instead of stand out where they had planned to stand out and have their movie showing. And they did that, to avoid conflict.
And after that they were appalled that the CWP people were calling them scum and cowards and challenging them daring them to show up in Greensboro Nov 3rd for their “Death to the Klan” march and rally. And very ill advisedly they accepted the challenge and came to Greensboro. They gathered at a residence on south, 220 south of Greensboro. They gathered with a caravan of about nine vehicles, the rear one was a van, a yellow van.
My client had gotten into that yellow van and they were riding. He didn’t know where he was going to, but he was informed that he was going to a site of a parade and rally, a “Death to the Klan” parade and rally. And after some traveling around came to a halt, the van was the last vehicle among those nine vehicles, right in front of a fair lane automobile. My client had come to Greensboro in that fair lane automobile, and he had put his shotgun into the rear of that vehicle. He had a shotgun loaded with number six bird shots. After they were halted they sat for a few moments and then heard, “They’re beating on our cars, they’re beating our cars.” And then an 18 year old boy named Mark So sitting up in the front seat of this van yelled out, “my wife is in that van, no my wife is in car they’re beating on, my wife is in the car.
They all piled out and ran up to the intersection where the front vehicles were, were being beat on. They did not have any weapons in their hands, they did have weapons in back of that fair lane Ford. They ran up to the intersection and the people there at the intersection, the CWP were beating on the cars with 2X2 oak clubs and firewood, there was considerable amount of firewood out there. Then when they got there they began to fight with the people who had clubs, and the people with clubs beating them with clubs, they grabbed clubs and beat back.
And then my client, Wood, a fella’ named Wood, said he saw Dr. James Waller going to a pick up truck parked right there at the intersection, and come out with a shot gun, and then he saw two other men, two black guys with shot guns approaching. They were scared they were going to fire at them, and they hollered out, They’ve got guns, they’ve got guns, they’re going to kill us.
At about that time he saw another Klansmen struggling with James Waller for the possession of that shotgun, but he did not stop to help that man, we was always ashamed that he did not, but he did not stop and help that man. He ran as hard as he could back to the van to try and save his life.
When he got back to the van he saw Jack Fowler, another Nazi, open the back of the vehicle the fair lane ford, in front of him, and take out a riffle, and then another boy standing there took out a shot gun that belonged to my client Wood. And Wood got that shotgun from the young boy. And he said from then on he fired, over the heads, this is hard to believe but this is what he said, he fired over the heads of those who were shooting at him. They were shooting in his direction he thought he was going to be killed and he firing back. And he said it was for just a short time, he didn’t know how long the firing went on and then the firing quit and he didn’t know exactly who had been hit or whatever but he wanted to get away from it, and he got in the van and others got in the van, and others up until that time the fair lane ford had been impeded and couldn’t go forward because other cars were in front, and other cars were moving away after the shooting. He got in the van with the others and they started moving on down the road and before they got very far the police stopped them and got ‘em out and made ‘em lie down on the ground, arrested them, took them to jail, questioned them about what had happened and they told ‘em.
Well it was a big issue, about whether in fact it happened like Wood told it. If you listen to what he said he didn’t fire any guns, and his companions didn’t fire any guns until they were fired upon. The prosecution was able to do something that the defense could never have done, they got the FBI to come to Greensboro and look at the uh, the uh, film that had been made of the uh, shootings by several TV stations. TV stations from Raleigh, no Durham, from Winston Salem, from High Point, from Greensboro. I didn’t realize that things were done this way but there was a timing mechanism, cause there were the pictures that were taken and of course sound track.
These FBI agents were able to take that sound track, and those pictures and those timings, and the sound of every shot was recorded, and a lot of the shootings were recorded, and they studied that stuff for thousands and thousands of hours. They didn’t complete that study until the trial was well in progress. We didn’t even know that the study was going on, but we found out somehow or another that the FBI had made this study, and the state had got a report from the FBI and had decided not to use the FBI report. Well then Percy Wall and Hal Greeson we all got together and Hal, the best way to contact the FBI to see what kind of evidence they had. And it came back from the report that the evidence that they had was what the defendants had said, that they didn’t shoot until they were fired upon.
They pinned down where each shot came from. They determined there were 88 seconds involved, 39 shots were fired that two, the two first shots were fired by people in the caravan up in the air, after people began beating on their cars. That the next three shots were fired from an area that they had in front of Morningside Homes, where the Communist group had congregated at the time of the shoot out. That was the next three shots. They were the first three shots fired in gun battle. The first two shots were just reaction to the cars being beaten on and try to frighten people back off of beating on the cars. That after the first three shots were fired in the battle by the Communist group standing in front of then uh, Morningside Homes, then there were a number of shots coming from the area where the defendants were standing, the uh, Klan’s people were standing right some distance from Morningside Homes, and that, then the total number of shots 39 was as Percy just told, were uh, almost equally fired.
Well that fit right in with out self defense. There is something else that occurred in this trial that very much impressed me, and this happened by virtue of Harold Greeson’s efforts. They put on a man named Nelson Williamson and Laura Blumenthal to testify for the state. I cross examined Percy Wall cross examined the last of the six lawyers to cross examine was Hal Greeson. And Hal dug out the fact, to my amazement, from Nelson Williamson, that Nelson Williamson and Laura Blumenthal had been hypnotized and examined by the prosecution, by the police and the district attorneys office in order to bring out more detail.
What they were really trying to do was they were trying to find, one fella’ that was represented by Hal Greeson that had a shot gun, that never seen putting it up to his shoulder, never seen him fire it, and they were trying to get some evidence to tie him in with some shooting. They hypnotized these people. And the most amazing testimony, quote from that we got as a result of that testimony, from that information that Hal got out, we got the filming, they had films they put on TV, what do you call it, Film, the name, interview they had of this girl under hypnosis, Laura Blumenthal.
Laura Blumenthal was a young lady, she was a reporter from channel 12 Winston Salem TV station. She had been ordered by her boss to go to this Nov 3rd “Death to the Klan” meeting, and her testimony was absolutely amazing. And it was comical, a young girl, I guess by the name Blumenthal, a beautiful Jewish name. And it was so impressive to me, I never forgot it and often wonder what became of that girl, what became of that girl.
Well I’d like to share with you what she said at that time. It’s amazing and distressing, here’s what she said under hypnosis. Its got bad language, strong language and it reflects very poorly on Nelson Johnson particularly and Bermanhzon, Dr. Bermanhzon, and a apologize for that, but it’s proof of what happened in the court room, and this came out, and I think it has uh, a great deal to do with, maybe with the understanding of what happened by the jury.
She says this under hypnosis, she and Dalton pulled into the parking lot at the Windsor center at about 10:15 am Nov 3rd 1979. She saw Willena Cannon there with a bunch of black kids in uniform. Willena Cannon told her that the rally would be at the intersection of Everitt and Carver St.. But don’t tell the cops. She went there, that is to Carver and Everitt St. There she talked to Paul Bermanhzon of the CWP. She asked him why he was there, he replied, we want to physically exterminate the Klan. We advocate armed self defense.
She saw Signe Waller, Dr. James Waller’s wife, with an arm full of Communist Workers papers. She asked for one, Signe Waller said to her, ‘they are free to workers, but you will have to pay 25 cents.’ This girl, she was a young girl, but she had a little spark about her, and she said back to Signe Waller, What the hell do you think I’m doing here? They were only giving them to workers, she was working involuntarily that Saturday morning. What the hell do you think I am doing here? Then she went to her car to get a tripod, for taking pictures for channel 12.
The crowd was shouting, and the cars had driven up, and they were striking cars with these clubs. She heard a crack, she thought it was a tire blown out, she heard another shot, she realized a shooting was going on. She and her camera man, David Dalton, ran to the channel 12 car, she was frightened and crying, and you could see her on these films crying. She was frightened. She was crying while she was testifying, under hypnosis. She was reliving what she had been going through, tears had been coming out of her eyes. This impressed me, and I think it impressed the jury. There was a big fight going on with clubs, this is her testimony.
She heard more shots, she said, ‘I was really scared,’ she ran to the drivers side of the car and lay down in the gutter. Shots were coming from both sides. She got under the car, she found that David Dalton was already there, under the car, between the front two wheels. Three CWP people were crouched in front of the car, by the grill. She said, this is what she said, in her testimony, under hypnosis, ‘I couldn’t believe all the shit that was going on. I felt heat on my throat. I had not realized I had a lit cigarette, I had dropped the cigarette under my throat.
Firing was going on around a pickup truck at the intersection. I wanted to see, but I was afraid. I was worried about David, I asked him if he was alright.’ He said that he had the camera on, he said, yes I have the camera on. She said, ‘I was afraid I would be shot in the face. That a gas tank was be hit and explode.’
She said, this is what she said under hypnosis, in answer to the question what happened that morning, ‘It was a great fucking story. But it’s not going to do me any good.’ She believed she was going to be killed.
‘Stuff was spraying around, under the car. I don’t know what. I don’t know why. I heard car windows breaking from being shot. A guy with strawberry blonde hair, and a jacket, with a black chest was standing next to the car on the drivers side.’
Those of you who may have studied that record would recognize that as being Mr. Sampson. ‘He yelled for a gun, somebody threw him a gun. I yelled for him to get away because he would draw fire.’ She didn’t want him standing there beside the car where she was under. She figured that she would draw fire from the other side and she would be killed. ‘He fired twice, then he fell, right there,’ that was the end of Sampson. She looked other way, there was another man down in the street moaning from the rest of the evidence, it is interminable, I believe that was Dr. Nathan. She said she wanted to touch him, that is Dr. Nathan who was laying there moaning, but was afraid.
She saw two people across the street who were also shot. That she wanted them to stop shooting. At that point the film of this girl talking shows her just crying, tears flowing out of her eyes. She asked Dalton if he was alright, he said he was, she said, ‘do you believe this shit?’
Cars started leaving, she got out from under the car, and went to the front of the car. Three people were there, a white guy who was wounded, a black pregnant woman, and a guy who played the guitar. I think that the guy playing the guitar was shown on the television footage that was called by the name of Paul, a member of the Communist Workers group.
She helped Dalton get out from under the car, Dalton had been wounded, he, his legs had been sprayed with bird shots and he was complaining of pain. She said, ‘I’ve got to figure out how many were hurt.’ She started counting, she told who she saw down. One was wounded bad, A CWP woman came over and said to her, get a picture, get a picture of him, put your hand over his head. And she replied to this woman, ‘kiss my ass you son of a bitch, you started this shit, you put your hand down.’
I am sorry, I had to apologize to the jury when I, and I apologize to you, I apologize on behalf of Miss Blumenthal. She was under hypnosis, she was reliving those horrible events. She was giving a picture of the horror and the insanity that was rampant at that place at that time while she was in absolute terror of loosing her life.
‘Paramedics came, a wife went to a wounded man by the building, she started yelling about the Klan, with her husband dying, she’s yelling about the Klan.’ This is what she is saying. ‘The woman who had the papers, Signe Waller, was across the street doing the same thing. We’ve got that on tape. David was complaining about his legs hurting. The camera had screwed up, I was so mad.
The police came and set up a police line to rope the place off. The police tried to get Nelson Johnson away, he wouldn’t go. The guy is a real ass hole. Three police tried to get him under the chain. And he started to abrade them, what an asshole.’
I’m not trying to run down Nelson Johnson, I can sympathize with Nelson Johnson’s hatred of the Klan completely. But this reflects the insanity and the horror of what was really going on Nov 3rd, 1979. ‘Willena Cannon was yelling at the cops. Why were they not there? She demanded.’ Willena Cannon was the woman that had told her where to go, and what not to tell the cops. And then she says this, and this is the last part that I will quote of what she said. She said this, and I apologize again, but this is coming from a young lady who was under hypnosis, and going through, and reliving what had happened on Nov 3rd 1979. She said, “these people are crazy, these people are fucking crazy.”
The reason I am telling you folks this is that I want you to understand the insanity and the horror of what was going on Nov 3rd 1979 at the corner of Everitt and Carver St. And this was from a girl, I think must be a young Jewish lady, probably hated these Nazis and had no sympathy whatsoever for the Klan, and just giving is what she experienced and what she saw that day, that morning. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Greeson.
HG- Nobody ever accused me of being hard to hear, is this ok? In the material sent to me, it made a few suggestions of things that I might address. There is only one thing that I know to tell you about this case and that’s the facts. Um, if this is a search for the truth then I am happy to be here.
Truth and facts are used interchangeably in my business all the time. Um, the true facts, I hear every day of my life. And so, it suggested that I might wish to talk to you about key factors in this case that I think may have secured the acquittal for our clients. Um ten minutes is not enough time to talk about nothing, it’s like doing the history of the world in an hour.
Um, but I would be glad to sit down with the commission with a map in front of me. Emily said she had a map I could use of the intersection of the scene.
Alright, while its coming up um, I think number one, is the physical evidence of the case. Neither of us, not even Percy and Bob, who although might not look like it now, are still much older than me, have seen that many exhibits in one case. There were 400 and sum 8X 10 photographs alone. I’ve got them somewhere in a storage room in a book. I didn’t have time to go through them. There was five video tapes, four video tapes that were running at the scene. Uh, we watched video tapes for hours and hours and hours.
The police department, in my opinion, did an excellent job gathering, collecting, preserving that evidence so that it would be available for trial. And they did a great job of transmitting it in a proper fashion to the FBI headquarters. Now there were three experts involved in the FBI, that were of utmost importance, the first I believe his name was Darrel Wilks, I couldn’t find it if they had written it, but I think my memory is correct. He was a ballistics expert. He was able to testify from his examination, he was able to testify from his examination that the shot gun shells, weather full or empty, they, all of the guns that were found at the scene, shot guns, were uh. He was able to testify if a shell found outside of the gun had been loaded into and ejected from that gun there by associating it to that extent, and if the gun shell was spent then he would uh, the natural conclusion is that it was fired in that gun that it was loaded into and ejected from. Big help.
Now everybody knows, he of course testified that rifle bullets, hand gun bullets, and as to the bullets he could absolutely identify those that had been fired from a particular weapon. There were more shot gun pellets than anything else. And of course everybody knows that you can’t trace a shotgun pellet from a given gun. Or can ya?
Enter Don Havokaust. He had a nuclear reactor at the FBI headquarters and shortly prior to this he had gone to the Winchester Western arms factory and he had carefully examined the way to make shot shells. Shot gun pellets and how they were loaded into the shells. He went through and watched them throw in the lead batteries and he took some samples, then it was poured out into batches, smaller batches, and he took samples from there. And then it was poured into pigs and he took samples there. And then there were made into pellets and he took all kinds of samples there and he took his kit bag back to Washington and he examined those in his nuclear reactor, and he found that each pellet has trace out evidence, a, silver, antimony, bismuth and that of, um, I can’t remember. But four trace elements. Infenentesable evidence amounts of those elements in shotgun pellets.
He compared the shot gun pellets in this case until I am sure he was blue in the face. He reported on each quantity of antimony, bismuth, silver and the other one. And was able to testify that in his opinion this pellet and this pellet were made in the same batch. At which Winchester Western or whatever manufacture was involved in that particular one. Why is that important? He had to go one a step further and say, so, he also examined how they were boxed. Pellets in the same batch were more likely, we boxed together. Sent out to the hardware store, to gun shops where ever on the country, together, bought by the owner of the shot gun, for the use of a shot gun by the box, and therefore more likely to be found and associated with a pellet in a full shot shell. In other words a pellet in a body could be compared to a full pellet found in a shot gun. Therefore he would be able to give in his opinion, that the matched in elemental composition therefore more likely than not had been fired by that gun.
The importance of this, and the reason that I go to all this trouble to tell you this is because there was scarcely a shot shell, and there were hundreds of shot shells in this case, that we could not identify with a gun, prosecution could not identify with a gun, after Mr. Wilks and Mr. Havokaust had testified. That was a great boom to us. I had a big chart I drew that looked like technicolor spaghetti as I drew a line from this shotgun shell found on the ground unloaded, that had been in my clients gun, that had not been fired, compared to another one and so forth.
My client told me from the first moment I met him, I never fired my gun. Yet he was the star of the Sunday paper lookin’ mean holding a shot gun. Big picture. I was worried about that until Percy brings in the sound analysis and uh, until I got all the reports from Havokaust, and he identified everyone of the shotgun shells laying around where Johnny had been standing as having come from his gun, when it came from one on them. Even the prosecution agreed he fired is gun, and I think that the prosecution thought before that that he had killed everybody.
Ok, the third FBI expert was Bruce Koenig and he did something that had never been done before. He, uh, made sound graphs of the shot shells from the, uh, he used the Channel 2 camera because it stayed in the same position and he was able to identify where the shots came from. Percy told you about one and two that were way down the street up in the front. If that’s the first car then the uh, young fella with the black powder pistol who fired out the window was in that one right here, Brit Fledger he climbed out of the back and fired his shotgun in the air and jumped back in and that counts for one and two. Officer Koenig, well the video was where he fired the black powder pistol. So those shots one and two were accounted for. Then you go on and you get to shots three, four, and five.
Somebody wrote an editorial in the paper, a bit uncomplimentary to the process of what’s going on with the Commission and so forth, but he said that the Communist fired first. Well I read that, it wasn’t exactly true. Then the newspaper comes in and puts an editors note at the bottom that says, no that they didn’t fire first, that the first shot attributed to the communist was number 12, well that sure wasn’t true.
And here’s where Bruce Koenig’s testimony under oath placed those shots. He said that because the triangulation didn’t give him a sufficient echo, he could only tie those three shots down to the same area. He drew a pentagon with sides like that. Now let me do that again. Here, here, here, here, and here. Now Emily, it won’t go off again, so I’ll stick it in my pocket for now. He testified that those three shots came from right there, ok big deal. Up until this time we had been watching these video tapes, we had seen our clients star down here along the street. They were in all the video tapes, but nobody saw what was going back there, where Coney said those shots came from. This told us at least one important thing that was going on. Somebody back there had a gun, and it wasn’t our clients cause they were all on TV, without guns in their hands. Those three shots were fired, the Klansmen, the defendants all flowed back, as Bob said, when Wood yelled they’re shooting at us, all flew back to the van, and the Ford, and got guns out of the Ford, and returned fire. I don’t know weather you had those shots explained to you, but if you don’t have them then you need a map with each one pinpointed, so that you can put it into the rest of the evidence when you are reading the transcript. Uh, I’m going to quit.
Thank you very much. I am sure there are a number of questions we would like to ask. Let me ask just to begin with, since you have been talking about Mr. Koenig’s testimony. I’ll admit to a little confusion on my part as to exactly how that testimony played out because it seems to be that possibly there was a slight change in his testimony. Uh, could you explain that to me, was there a change in his testimony, and how did that play out?
HG- Glad you asked that. I was not only in the state trial, I went 5 ½ more months in 1984 in the federal trial in Winston Salem. Mr. Koenig came in, there were five Washington prosecutors who decided that they didn’t like the way he had testified before, and so they had him come in a testify, oh no, uh, they gave me a folded map to look at in the state trial to look at. So I was unable to see the part down the road. Well that’s not true because he had already said that shots one and two came from down the road, but I listened. He said, I have reassessed that and they must have come from down the road, now that I see the other half of the map. I got up out of my seat and I grabbed Tom, the FBI agent who was in charge of evidence. We, I asked the judge, could we, could I have five minutes. We marched across the hall to there Tom had all the exhibits from the state trial. Evidently Mr. Koenig didn’t know that, and the prosecutors from Washington hadn’t looked. Tom Brereton and I brought in the exhibit that the state had used in the state trial and there pretty as you please was that pentagon drawn on there and the map was long, and took in the whole area. And Mr. Koenig decided that he must have been mistake in trying to change his testimony.
In terms of his testimony, I recollect Judge Long saying that was, that he stated that he could identify within six inches where the shot originate, where the muzzle of the gun was. He couldn’t necessarily know where the person was standing. Do you recollect that specificity in his testimony? HG- Well this isn’t court right here, but that sounds right to me. He said three to uh, he said three feet, more or less, from where the person was standing. That’s my recollection, he could have said six inches from the muzzle.
But on those specific shots, three, four and five, instead of specifying the specifics of location , he specified a rather large area. Approximately what I have circled with the line. I am still curious about that. I know this isn’t the place to explore that but it’s just not clear to me how he could be so specific on some shots, and have this rather general area for those particular three shots, which are really rather crucial to understand how this played out. HG- All is confound with me, but then I am a lawyer, not a sound expert. But uh, it’s explained in his testimony why he can’t do it. He was measuring echoes, and he printed from a kinescope attached to the sound track of the video tapes the pictures that came off this kinescope. It looks like what you have seen before where it goes, pow, and it trails off like this…and he measured physically, with a ruler from peak to peak to peak to get the echoes, and he had the map before him and his scaled drawings and he bounced them off of the buildings and knew where they bounced off, and that was his testimony.
Right, I understand, I just need to do more research into that testimony. It is so detailed and extensive. We’ve got more work to do and we can’t do that all here. I’m curious about, and any one of you might answer this. As defense attorneys in a rather complex and difficult case, do you feel that the refusal of members of the CWP to testify or to participate in the prosecution, did that in any way affect the outcome of the trial?
RC- I personally have this feeling about it. I felt all the time that the thing I was most wanting to do was get those CWP members on the stand so that I could cross examine them. Because they had made a multitude of threats and they put out all of these writing in which they were strategizing saying they were going to physically going to exterminate the Klan and would say things like the police, and the city and everyone in a government position was in a conspiracy to support the Klan in order to divide the working class and beat down poor people.
Well I wanted to cross examine about all these threats they had made and I wanted to examine about where they were standing when the shots were fired. I thought that we would make a lot of hail cross examining if they would show up. I don’t believe that the state would have gained any ground by that, they would have been very vulnerable to cross examination. They had made so many rash statements. And not disorderly. For example we had witnesses to testify where they had said, we’ve got fire arms, we know how to use them, if the Klan shows up there will be violence, that kind of stuff. We would have made so much gain out of cross examination I think the state would have lost ground.
Thank you for that.
PW- Let me add a remark to that. I certainly agree. From my standpoint I certainly would have liked to cross examine the communists. It seems that 25 years later there is an effort to try to wash away any of the ideology advanced by those people in 1979. For example on the night before the Klan rally was to be held on the 3rd of November, the communists, headed by Nelson Johnson of the local CWP put pamphlets in the doorways of the citizens on the march route and the pamphlet said, look we are going to do away with the Klan, you have your guns on your porch tomorrow when they come through here. I would have loved to have asked them about that. But we didn’t have that opportunity. Certainly negates any statements that said, I wasn’t calling for any violence. Be on your front porch in the morning when the Klan comes through.
Thank you for the observation. One last question I’m going to ask and then see if other commissioners, in light of time, I will keep my questions to just these three. In terms of the selection of the jury, a lot has been made of the fact that we ended up with an all white jury. And the judge has explained how many, and I’m not an attorney, I don’t remember the term that is used, but um, peremptory challenges, or ways that you eliminate people from the jury without explaining why and justifying that. Do you, uh, how would you describe the final jury and its make up in terms of the way you were able to win your case? Speaker- The fact that we had so many challenges and that we had so many challenges in public was a capital case. Both sides, both the state and the defendant had so many challenges that they never ran out of challenges. That’s something you always dread when you are trying a case, you dread running into somebody with prejudice and you can’t get them off the jury, well we never had that problem. That was true both of the defendant and the state, and the prosecution, both sides had sufficient challenges that they could strike from the jury anybody that they had any suspicion, the harbor any prejudice that would be horrible to that eye. As a result we really picked a jury that nobody could complain about. We picked a jury that had no, in my eyes that had no prejudices. It was a fair jury. And it helped both sides eliminate any possible prejudices first. I think that the jury would have wound up extraordinarily conscientious jury. I base a lot of that on, how they endured during the trial.
A long trail like that, with so many mundane days of where you found this pellet, where you found that shell casing, and traced it back, as Hall has just been describing. It was almost impossible for me to keep my eyes open. But that jury stayed awake and alert all through it. I admired the jury I really did. And we never knew, for example after the trial we found out some things about the jury we didn’t know. There was a fella who had been in Cuba, had left Cuba under pressure from Castro tide ya know, from the communist side. Everybody, people thought that he would be prejudice against his state, against the communist group. It turned out from what we learned after the trial was he became foreman of the jury and he admonished everybody, we are not going to talk about isms, capitalism, Nazism, communism, any kind of ism, we are going to try and talk about what happened and find out what the truth is and that is what he told the rest of the jurors. And he was a hold out against the defendants.
We had twelve jurors, ten jurors were voting not guilty, this was information that we got after the trial from the jurors about how it had developed. Both sides, both the state and the defendants asked the jurors what happened, what happened, what happened? And they told us, but this fella who was the foreman of the jury was the next to the last one to, he voted guilty right up until the very end. At the end he was the second to the last to vote not guilty.
So this is something that we in all discussed today in the press and otherwise, that the state made a huge mistake by picking this fella and letting him be on the jury. But it turns out that he was a very good prosecution juror. The other man who held out, people also criticized him was a war veteran even though he was in the US army or the marines but anyway he had been a sergeant in combat and people thought that he would be anti-communist you know. But he was the very last one to vote not guilty. He was the twelfth juror to come across the books as not guilty. It was a good jury, an intelligent jury, and a contentious jury.
Speaker- May I respond briefly to that. Have said why an all white jury maybe. The reason the state elected to try these defendants on the capital offence gave each defendant 14 peremptory challenges, but more than that, it eliminated a vast number of other wise eligible jurors who might have been sitting in that jury box. As an example, if you had one hundred black prospective jurors at least seventy of those hundred are opposed to capital punishment and rightfully so. That leaves you with thirty of a hundred. I say rightly so because, certainly they have been persecuted enough, let me say that, they know better than anybody how mistreat, how people can be mistreated on the death penalty law, they know sadly, they know.
Thank you. Mr. Greeson, anything you want to add?
HG- The only thing that I would add is that the prosecution went first. They had a jury expert with them, all we had was Cahoon, which is considerable let me tell you. And the prosecution got to question everybody, and we only got to question those that the prosecution approved and sent down to us. Very few black citizens were sent down to us, but those that did honestly did respond to our questions, well what do you think about the Klan? Do you think that you could be fair in this trial? To a member of the Klan or Nazi party? And uh, and most everyone of the them responded, no I don’t think I could. What are you going to do? Many of them were admitted by the judge because the admitted honestly that they could not be fair.
But one more point. We didn’t pick the jury. The lawyers, nine lawyers in the federal trial in Winston uh, the Judge, Judge Flannery from Washington came down. And he asked all the questions, of all the jurors, neither the prosecutors nor us asked anything, any questions at all. So he picked a body of jurors that had very few black citizens in it. I represent to, and believe it, that it was the very same reason, the people were extremely honest, there was no death penalty in that one, but he questioned their feelings about communists, and he did almost as good as I would have.
I have a few questions. Um, and for any of the panel. To the best of your knowledge do you recall weather there was any excessive force evidence at the trial? In other words when a person was either on the ground wounded, or bent over in pain uh, was there any evidence that those people were shot, or that there was excessive force used on them in that manner? Speaker- I’m really not clear about the question. Of course there had to be excessive force on the wounded, to be lying on the ground.
The point is I think that excessive force would result if somebody were shot after they already had been wounded.
Speaker- No I don’t remember anything like that. I don’t think there was any evidence of that, no. Not that somebody had been shot, then somebody comes up and shoots them again or bent over, no none of those types of things.
So to the best of your knowledge there was no excessive force. Speaker- No, excessive force is an odd thing. There was excessive force by both sides when you shoot people with a pistol a 22 pistol, I think that’s excessive force. If somebody shoots back with a 12 gauge shotgun I think that’s excessive force. I don’t want to be that.
I’m interested in excessive force with respect to voluntary manslaughter in other words, if excessive force is used in self defense, arguably at least, you could have voluntary manslaughter and I understand that was one of the charges to the jury. Is that right? Speaker- well yes that is true and the argument was made, the argument was made by the uh, district attorney and as I recall he says, well there were actually 12 gauge shotguns with buck shots on both sides, but he was arguing that somebody may be shooting at the Klansman, for instance, with a pistol, a 38 caliber pistol, and the Klansman is shooting back with a 12 gauge shot gun. He was arguing that that was excessive. I think that’s a ridiculous argument because if I put myself in the position of anybody who is shot at with a 38 caliber revolver and he has got a 12 gauge shotgun there, oh no, I’m not going to shoot, I am not going to defend myself, I’m going to look for a 38 caliber revolver. That’s ridiculous. You are going to shoot back with whatever you got, you are going to try and save your life.
Would you explain for the commission and the audience the difference between bird shot and buck shot. Speaker- Birdshot is like a little bitty shot like you shoot a dove with, number six shot, really small shot. Buck shot, a big shot, if anyone of them was a buck shot, then kick it, you don’t have to be hit with but one. Its like any other bullet, you get hit in a vital part with a buck shot you’ve had it. Birdshot they just be superficial wounds.
Alright, could, would any of you comment on how much effort you spent on this trial? Did you work on any other cases when you were working on this case? And how months did you spend on this case?
RC- Percy has already told that, ten months we spent. Ten months on this case. And from the beginning of it to the end of it I had to give all other cases I had in court, I had to give up, I was near bankrupt. I didn’t declare bankrupt, but I was bankrupt.
HG- There were two trials, each one lasted, the Federal and the State trial, each one lasted 5 ½ months by coincidence. And the uh, preparation time took it up to a year each for me. And I spent 12- 16 hours a day seven days a week having to read all that stuff.
That was for the two trials?
HG- Each day of each of the two trials.
and of the three attorneys you are the only one that was in uh, involved in both those trials. HG- Of us three yeah.
Of you three yes.
HG- Uh, Jeff Faren and Neil Jennings and I, all three were in the Federal trial as well.
You spoke out about the pressure that was applied on the couple people who were holding out for guilty verdicts. Can you tell us a little bit more about what you know about that pressure and how it was exerted?
RC- At every trial, every trial when you have a trail with a jury there’ll be, usually people sometimes get a case that is so extreme that everybody is in agreement for first voting, but usually there is some disagreement. Some people see it one way, some another. In every trial there are disagreements. I don’t, I don’t think you could call it pressure. You just keep sitting there until you try and get to a, a unanimous decision, which is what is required. And uh, my wife was on a jury one time, she took it very contentiously. I asked her when she came home what kind of jury she was on. She said, I can’t tell you anything about it. When this jury stayed out and stayed out and stayed out and stayed out, and never did come to a conclusion. It was a hung jury. And Wally Haroldson the public defender, he heard from one of the other jurors that Mrs. Cahoon held out to the end. Would not give. She was rolled and tossed, every night while I was sleeping she rolled and tossed. It was pressure, but it wasn’t bad pressure all she had to do was say I won’t commit and that’s all anybody had to do. Its not pressure in the sense that, well I’ll take that back sometime people depending on their personalities may be conscious in there was of expressing themselves in a jury room like everyone else. I remember when we had little old thin walls in the jury room and you could hear them and I use to sit as close as I could trying to figure out how, but pressure from the standpoint of somebody is putting pressure on you will do this and do that. I don’t think it was that at all. Thank you.
Can I just follow up to that question and ask, the two people you referred to as holding out um, till the end, do you get a sense of what were the issues for them, why they were holding out? What they felt was leaning, was making them lean towards a guilty verdict. RC- I think it’s like in this room. People listen to me, listen to Percy, they listen to the other witnesses they go out with different things on their minds as pressing, different things with importance. And what made this boy, who was a veteran I think he was a law and order person, and I have had this experience with law and order people, they say if somebody is killed, somebody has got to be guilty. Ya know. And then the other people that would say, well you think very serious about this reasonable doubt. They say I’ve got a doubt, and you can have all kinds of fluctuations of opinions. And that was present of almost all jurors and juries and undoubtedly in this one. People with different views weighing the things honestly in their head, some would do it different completely. Then they would sit down and talk to each other and argue and argue and one is persuading. Sometime you will have one person vote not guilty, wind up with all twelve voting not guilty because they were able to persuade them. Sometimes it goes the other way.
I have a question and I apologize, I want to bring back shots one through five cause I have a lot of confusion and I wanted to get some help understanding that, shots one and two were established as coming from the front of the caravan, and they were sort of labeled non aggressive. And three four and five, because of the sound analysts you described with the chart was established as coming from Carver, that intersection but beyond that van. So that’s why none of these the TV cameras were able to captured who was behind it shots, he said that the shots came from that area once the devised map was given to him, but there is no visual proof as to who was there behind, and then also in that area, even though it was in front of the community center apparently, and this is where my confusion comes too, that we have been reading so many reports, that there were both Klansmen and CWP members in that area.
In fact there was one and they were struggling over a gun and I think I remember right it was a woman, and so, was it ever established with doubt, with any doubt that shots three, four, and five were fired by CWP? And then as a follow up question if that was true, was established without any doubt I was wondering if there was any conversation in the court, if they heard shots one and two from that corner they couldn’t see weather they were being fired at, could they have fired in self defense if they just heard these shots and they didn’t know if they were pointed at them. If shots three, four, and five, if indeed they were really established as coming from CWP, could they have fired in self defense. And I hope you understand, and if it’s not clear I’d be glad to explain it, and I know, I apologize to the audience.
HG- There is too long a time gap between number two and number three. As I recall nine seconds. As I recall the first two shots if you look at the film, uh, you’ll see the stick fight going on, you’ll hear all the noise. If you are listening for it, um, you’ll be able to hear one and two down the road, but you have to listen. If you watch the people in the stick fight you don’t see anybody turn in the direction of those shots, um I don’t believe that anybody heard it, or paid any attention to it. That’s number one in the self defense theory. The second thing it was not nine seconds later. The stick fight is going on as those shots are firing and I think the sequence is bop, bop…bop, two short ones, two together, and then one. Roy testified at trail, and I apologize I didn’t have time to go dig his testimony out but uh the best of my recollection is that he saw this man in the red [?] as he described it, he might not have said [?], but he described a man with a black beard who took the shot gun out of the pick up truck that was sitting there. The gun was owned by Thomas Clark, I believe the FBI identified it and Tony said ‘I turned, and this man he described, came up under my chin with his shot gun and that’s when I grabbed it’ and I don’t recall weather he said it fired. It may have fired while they were struggling over it and produced number five, that’s my thought, but once again all we know is that Tony was right beside the van, uh I mean you said van, it was a pickup truck. And um, I‘ve got a drawing in here that came from somewhere, it’s the police and I can’t tell you where it came from, it ended up in my physical evidence book and it shows the route of Tony. Now when Tony came running out with that shot gun having taken it away from Waller he came running around, and he sort of, he fired back again, you can see that on TV after he has already come back from behind then he runs over to the van fires it again the state contended, I’m not sure he did, but there is a spent shell in the area, so I ‘m inclined to believe he did, threw the gun in the grass and then jumped in the van. He didn’t get any more weapons and engage in anything else. I don’t remember what he did after that, but it’s in the testimony. That’s the best I can do on that. I have no idea where the other two came from expect that pentagon.
We have run past out time, I still have a question which I would like to pose and hopefully we can get through this question very quickly. Do you think that the decision the district attorney to charge the Klansmen with murder had any effect on the outcome? Speaker- You mean capital murder?
Yes. Speaker- Yes, I’ll answer, I think it had a great effect for the reason stated earlier, if no other. He automatically eliminated seventy percent of the people he wanted on the jury when he elected to go with a capital offence, but at the same time you have got to remember that district attorney had a lot of pressure put on him from a lot of people, go for the death penalty, don’t go for anything else. So his choice to go for death penalty, in my opinion had a great effect on the trial.
Thank you, thank you. We very much thank you gentlemen for sharing with us. Speaker- Mr. Sims, may I interrupt for just a minute? I was given, in my package I was given a list of questions that I might be asked and I came prepared to answer one of the them and I haven’t been asked, but I would like to respond to it.
Alright. Speaker- You know I have been frequently asked, how does it feel, or why would you represent a Klansman? How does it feel to represent a Klansman? I hate the Klan. I’m a lawyer, I was appointed to represent my client to the best of my ability so was Bob Cahoon and so was Hal Greeson. And I expressed to those who were injured and hurt and lost loved ones my concern that it happened and indeed it is regretful.
You know as an attorney you are an advocate, and you give your clients you very best shot. You do the best you can do and if you can’t do that then you don’t have any business in the law suit to start with. It appeared to me and all the lawyers in the case that this was a self defense case. We defended this case on self defense, the jury agreed with us.
You know I am reminded of a case I tried many years ago here in Greensboro. Carnegie if I’m not mistake was the DA and Judge Rouse, not young Jules, but his father, Judge Rouse well up in Wilkesboro was the judge presiding and after all the evidence was in and the jury had gone out to deliberate the lawyers and the judge were standing back in the lawyers room and judge Rouse said to the DA, Mr. Carnegie, he says, you know if we put the prosecution the prosecuting witness in a barrel with the defendant and we rolled it down the hill we’d have a damn fool talk all the time. And I think that’s appropriate to this case and that’s the reason I’m telling you. I had a fool, my fool was David Mathew. My fool won the case, the other fool lost, and now, in my opinion, and I’m a citizen of Greensboro and I love it. Now the other fool of the 1979 shoot out decided that he or she wants a new barrel, those people, and you know who they are, they have been very out spoken, they were uh very influential in my opinion, in getting this group, this commission formed. The same people, some of the same people that were in the barrel in 1979, want to rewrite the trial. They want to rewrite history. And to do this, how to they do that, they must create distrust and unrest, for only in that climate, only in that climate can they operate effectively. Unrest, unrest between the races, distrust of the citizens, conspiracy of the government, conspiracy of the judiciary, conspiracy of the law enforcement is the way they create that unrest. Ladies and Gentlemen, that must be stopped. Greensboro has come a long way, we have a long way to go, but I guarantee that we can go all the way if the fools of 1979 will let us. I have nothing further to say.
Thank you gentlemen for your testimonies. PW- And thank you for receiving us.
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