Justice in the Long Halls: Jarvis Masters’ Hearing — Day 4

10 January 2011

The hearings continued today in the surreal surrounds of the Marin Civic Center. Jarvis Masters’ team called three witness. The first was co-counsel for defense at the original trial. His testimony was very brief, and, to me, a little obscure. But I have been learning how seemingly small, discrete facts weave into the larger fabric of a legal case over time.

Witness two was a retired private investigator with a long history in law enforcement and the California corrections system. His bona fides were carefully established by Chris Andrian. Then he was asked to testify about the structure and working principles of California prison gangs. Presumably, his testimony will fit into a complex narrative about Sgt. Burchfield’s murder, gang leadership, and how Jarvis, as a gang member under discipline at the time of the stabbing, would not have been included in any of the planning or action.

The third witness of the day was another current inmate. A compact man with a neat goatee, shackled and jump-suited, Witness 3 has been in the California prison system for thirty years straight, serving a life sentence. In 1985, he was housed on the second tier of San Quentin’s Carson Section, the unit where Burchfield was fatally attacked. This was compelling testimony, set off by the witness’s soft-spoken demeanor. At the heart of his testimony were two statements. First, that Jarvis Masters had voted in opposition to the killing of Sgt. Burchfield, corroborating Thursday’s testimony that Jarvis had been stripped of gang responsibilities for this opposition. Second, that the weapon used to make the spear used to kill Burchfield—a piece from the underneath brace of a bed frame—was entirely procured, shaped, sharpened, and assembled on the second tier, where it was used for the attack. Witness 3 insisted that at no time did this weapon leave the tier, nor did it make any sense for it to go back and forth among upper and lower tiers. The passing of weapons was and is a very risky business for the inmates. I would remind you that Jarvis was then housed on the fourth tier.

• The hearings are OFF tomorrow, Tuesday, resuming on Wednesday at 10am, Room L, Floor C, Marin County Court.

• Wednesday will probably be a short day, with only one witness on the list. But the witness roster is full for days that follow. See you in court.

• Jarvis Masters’ website is <http://www.freejarvis.org/>

— Alan Senauke

About asenauke

Zen Buddhist priest, activist, writer, father, musician
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2 Responses to Justice in the Long Halls: Jarvis Masters’ Hearing — Day 4

  1. Phil Coffin says:

    Frank Lloyd Wright designed these circular court rooms, I believe, to encourage eye contact, promote empathy, and to facilitate mutual understanding. So, as a loyal Frank Lloyd Wright fan, I’ve been looking around the courtroom at peoples eyes and body language. The more I consider everyone, the more the barriers of ‘us’ and ‘them’ break down. Whether we wear a robe, uniform + gunbelt, orange jumpsuits, or street clothes, everybody in that courtroom goes home at the end of the work, makes dinner, watches a little TV or reads, gets irritated in traffic, walks the dog maybe, talks on the phone, lives life. I might have sat next to the corrections officer at an A’s game. I might have been in line behind that attorney at the grocery store. My student could easily be the guy in the orange jumpsuit in 20 years. Just a little casual observation that came to me today, while this incredibly critical testimony was happening.

  2. Chester Howard says:

    Thanks for these important updates on Mr Masters

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