A jury of 12 white men began hearing testimony in Americus, Ga., yesterday in the case of John W. Perdew '64 and three fellow civil rights demonstrators standing trial for charges of assault with intent to murder.
The four were indicted by a grand jury last week in the assault charge, a felony punishable by a maximum of ten years in prison. They also face charges for participating in rioting which allegedly followed a civil rights demonstration in Americus Aug. 8.
The defendants will be tried later on the rioting charge which carries a maximum penalty of 12 months at public work, six months in jail, and a $1,000 fine.
An Americus police officer testified yesterday that during the demonstation Ralph W. Allen, one of the defendants, threw a bottle that narrowly missed striking another policeman.
Another witness, Police Sgt. H.C. Mason, told the jury that Allen was with a group of Negroes that marched through downtown Americus that night.
Other Charges Dropped
Perdew, Allen, Donald Harris, and Thomas McDaniel had originally been charged with incitement to insurrection under a pre-Civil War Georgia statute, and with unlawful assembly. The insurrection charge carries a maximum penalty of death, but both charges were ruled unconstitutional last month by a three-judge Federal panel.
During the complex legal maneuvering preceding that decision, it became clear that Georgia officials were intent on making an example of the four defendants. The officials held the students for more than three months before they were ordered by the three-judge panel to set bail.
In asking support of a drive to collect money for Perdew's legal defense, Dean Monro said he was convinced the students were in danger of being sentenced to heavy prison terms.