innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Challenge in Aryan Gang Case-Witnesses

By Christopher Goffard, Times Staff WriterMay 11, 2006

Prosecutors seeking justice for Terry Lamar Walker in death found little good to say about him in life.
A convicted burglar, stickup man and bank robber, Walker spent much of his adult life behind bars. His killing in May 1999, at the high-security federal prison in Marion, Ill., was anything but discreet.
A guard reported seeing one inmate grab the unarmed Walker from behind while another lunged at him, over and over, with a 4-inch shiv.

Prison officials soon found informers to explain why the 37-year-old Walker, who was black, had to die: He had made the mistake of scuffling with a white inmate.

The Aryan Brotherhood, arguably the nation's most vicious prison gang, was sending a message.During a seven-month trial in Benton, Ill., the government called a procession of violent career criminals, including admitted murderers and perjurers, to build a case against the alleged regional gang leader, David "Big Dave" Sahakian, and two of his supposed assassins.

After the jury deadlocked in March 2004 on murder charges, handing prosecutors a hugely expensive embarrassment, one juror offered this explanation: "The government's witnesses were scarier than the defendants."

The Aryan Brotherhood is on trial again, this time in Orange County as part of a racketeering and murder case involving many of the same figures from the Illinois case. But this time, the aim is far bolder: Destroy the gang's alleged empire of drug-trafficking, extortion and gambling by scything away its entire high command.

For two months, the two men prosecutors call the brotherhood's supreme bosses in the federal prison system, Barry "The Baron" Mills and T.D. "The Hulk" Bingham — along with alleged lower-ranked leaders Edgar "The Snail" Hevle and Christopher Gibson — have been chained to the floor of a U.S. district courtroom in Santa Ana. There they have watched a stream of pale, bull-necked inmates — their former friends and confidants — take the witness stand with a clank of manacles and, one by one, turn on them.

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