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10 Precinct Conspiracy Trial "happy" Battle Sings For His Life

10 Precinct Conspiracy Trial "happy" Battle Sings For His Life image 10 Precinct Conspiracy Trial "happy" Battle Sings For His Life image
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■afip & % & Tropically dapper in his well-tailored white suit, green silk shirt open at the throat. and brown leather platforms, Milton "Happy" Battle lounged back in tlie witness chair in an obvious effort at unstudied aplomb. Ihe micruphone, howcver, had been twisted awkwardly close to his mouth and the sound it picked up was often vealing in more ways than one. Happy was tinally singing at the lOth Precinct conspiracy trial, and there were moments when his voice rose a few notes too high and quivered with an unintentional vibrato. Battle had been called to the stand by attorney Robert Harrison to testify for his cliënt, Sgt. Rudy Davis, formerly head of the lOth Precinct narcotics unit. Davis, along with eight other Detroit cops and seven civilians, is currently on trial for conspiring to sell narcotics and obstruct justice. Battle, at one time, was a defendant in the case; later, after pleading guilty , he was scheduled as a witness for the prosecution. Battle had been called by Harrison- over the strenuous protest of several other defense attorneys-because Rudy Davis expected Battie to clear him. In terms of the content of Battle's testimony in Judge Justin Ravitz's courtroom, Davis got what he expected. But whether Battle's words would finally carry weight with the jury, who listened with rapt attention, is a matter subject to speculation. In fact, loss than three hours after Battle took the stand on Oct. 22, and before attomey Harrison had even completed his direct examination, the trial was adjourned for the remainder of the week at the request of defendant Robert Neely- who became too ill to remain in attendance. The . prosecution. which privately claims to have polygraph results that indícate Battle is lying, plans an out attack on his testimony. Other defense counsel fear that Battle on the stand might do irreparable damage to their clients. Battle, however, did deny the most serious charges against Rudy delivered in earlier testimony by Battle's lormer bodyguard, Wiley Reed. Reed claimed to have made two separate payoffs to Davis of a thousand dollars eacn trom Battle, and to have picked up a diamond ring fasliioned with the initials RD from a Myers Jewelry Store for Battle to give to Davis. These things never happened, Battle told the jury- and what's more, he had so informed the prosecution team mediately after he had pled guilty n the case last January and agreed to turn state's evidence. In spite of this effort to establish the "truth," according to Battle, prosecuting attorneys Walter Gibbs and Roy C. Hayes and chief investigating officer Deputy Chief George Bennett "even went so far as to say I was lying." According to Battle, Gibbs said he couldn't understand why Battle was helping "these whiteys" (Davis and the other white cops on trial). The black cop, Bennett, supposedly remarked to the convicted black dope dealer, Battle: "You know what I need on Rudy Davis. You know he's a no-good white son-of-bitch, and you know what he's doing to our people." After more of this kind of treatment in which such remarks were made repeatedly, Battle says he finally offered a statement that incriminated Rudy Davis. Battle now says the statement was untrue, and that he retracted it in short order because (in attorney Harrison's words) Battle "couldn't live with it." Harrison's choice of language is interesting, since many speculate that Battle's current testimony exculpating Davis has been prompted by self-preservation. "Happy," it is said, would rather not go to the penitentiary as the "snitch" who helped to put a well-connected white cop behind bars. Security during Battle's testimony was even heavier than usual in Recordcr's Court, with several pólice officers, both in uniform and in plain clothes, posted at the door, around the courtroom and among the spectators. Despite his considerable effort to ' niinucd on page 25 lOth Precinct Conspíracy Trial contínued front page 7 appear calm on the stand, Battle's frequent requests Tor conferences with his attorney, his smiles and chuckles at seemingly inappropriate moments, and the trenuilous waver in his voice whenever lie was required to speak more than a few words at a time, all hinted at considerable stress and tensión in the man they used to cali "Happy" down on T welf th and Pingree. lt seems likely that in listening to Battle, more than one juror was reminded of earlier testimony trom thiee or four mcmbers of the McNeal clan, who served as major prosecution wilnesses. They said Happy had "screamed and cried like a woman" when he was beaten up, robbed and extorted on a nnmbei of occasions by patrolmendcfendants David Slater hui Willie Peeples. Slater and Peeples watched quietly from their corner of the courtroom, no doubt waiting to sce what Mr. Battle miglit have to say about those jlleged pleasantries. That qucstion. and many otliers, were Ie ft hanging whcn couit was adjoumed and Battle was escorted back to his current residence in the Wayne County Jail. How effectiye would the prosecution be in cross-examining Battle and in bringing on rebuttal witnesses? Proseeutor Gibbs frankly admilied that Battle had dapiaged the People's case, both by denying his earliei charges and by attacking the integrity and methods af the piosecution team. Dcputy Chief 'Bennctt has repeatedly denied all accusations ot'misconduct, and he will probably be called as a rebuttal witness 10 do 90 again in more specific terms. Does the pmsecution. in fact, have Itedetector resulta showing Battle is prevaricating about his real conneetion with Rudy Davis? Ifsuch results do exist. can they be made known in some tashion to the jury? ' Finally, would Rudy Davis finally take the stand in his own dcfense? Preliminary reporta indicated that he would. Bui las! year, during the Recorder'sC'ouit trial in which Davis was convicted ol conspiring to obstruct ustice and take bribes, similar reports proved to ho unfounded. ín that case which gol him three to five years, and is novv on appeal Davis decided nol to take the stand, and ït was rumoied tliat his motivo was at least in part tliat ho did nol wish to be questioned abotrt li is financia! situation. As a sergeant in the early 70's, Davis's basic salary would have been in the SI 6.000 range. One source close to the prosecution says it has records indicating tliat Rudy was banking considerablv more than might seem reasonable on such an income, and describes the probable effect of such evidence as "devastating." In the meanüme, Happy Battle wfl] be called back to the mike to finish his song. And all sixteen defendants, as well as the sevcntoon jurors charged with udging witness credibility, will bo hanging on every word.