SAN FRANCISCO (LNS)- Black Panther Party Chief of Staff David Hilliard was convicted by an Alameda County jury June 12, of two counts of assaulting a police officer- and aquitted of two other counts of attempting to murder the same policeman.
The prosecution witnesses - all police except for a city building inspector - testified about the April 6, 1968 shootout between police and Panthers. This was the incident which resulted in the death of Bobby Hutton and the reimprisonment of Eldridge Cleaver 3 years ago.
In all of the prosecution testimony only 3 bits of evidence linked Hilliard to the shooting: A shoe that was found near one of the parked Panther cars; a jacket with ammunition in the pocket, found in a nearby shed; and a set of car keys left by Hilliard in a house in which he sought refuge.
There was no conclusive evidence to indicate that the shoe was David's. He had testified that he had been wearing sandals on the night in question. The keys belonged to a car registered to one of the others arrested that night--in any case that car was not one of the ones involved that night. Furthermore, the jacket with the ammunition in the pocket was much too large to have belonged to Hilliard. Throughout the trial, Hilliard never denied that he was at the scene that night.
The lack of evidence did not disturb Vukota (Alameda County D. A.). The fact that Hilliard was a Black Panther - and a leader at that - was sufficient, he argued. It should convince any jury, if they would only use "the same common sense you use in running your business" that he was equally responsible as those who had shot at the police that night. The jury finally settled on a compromise and decided that Hilliard must be "partly guilty." He was found innocent of attempted murder, but guilty of assault. Each guilty count carries with it a one- to ten-year sentence; David Hilliard is now in jail, for a possible total of 20 years. An appeal is expected.