The Trial of Bobby Seale

Two weeks later, the Oakland Conference, called by the Black Panther Party, created a multiracial United Front against Fascism. Bobby Seale spoke at a rally on July 19 which opened the conference, and Charles Garry-the lawyer who has defended so many Panthers that the Party calls him "the only true White Panther" -conducted seminars for lawyers on problems involved in courtroom defense of Panthers and other radical groups.

In the middle of August, George Sams was arrested in Toronto. At this point the case takes on a much more serious turn. Sams has so far proved to be the most important-and problematic-prosecution witness. Immediately after his arrest, he signed an affidavit implicating Bobby Seale in the death of Alex Rackley. On August 19, in Oakland, Bobby Seale was arrested on charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Seale, already under indictment for conspiracy to riot and crossing state lines with intent to incite a rot, fought extradition to Connecticut, which is sued an indictment against him on August 19. A California court ordered him extradited, and Governor Ronald Reagan, not surprisingly, turned down his appeal.

BOBBY SEALE and George Sams are the two most important figures in the New Haven case: Sams because his testimony may send Seale to the electric chair, and Seale because his indictment turned the New Haven trial from an almost routine prosecution of a small Party Chapter-one of many such prosecutions in the nationwide crackdown on the Panthers which has been underway since Richard Nixon and Co. took over the operation of the nation's law-enforcement apparatus-into what may be one of the most important political trials in this century, a trial which black and white radicals alike contend forms an all-important, make-or-break cross-roads for the Movement, a trial which John Froines called "the focus of the whole country."

The two-Seale and Sams-are disparate figures.


Bobby Seale and Huey Newton-Minister of Defense now in prison for manslaughter-founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense as students at Merritt College in Oakland. Since then Seale has been arrested four times-all four arrests on charges relating to his Black Panther activities: on June 8, 1967, on charges of carrying a gun in a state building during a Panther demonstration at the California Statehouse in Sacramento against a proposed gun-control law being debated in the Legislature (he was later given three years probation); on Feb. 25, 1967, for conspiracy to commit murder (charges were later dropped); once, in 1968. on conspiracy charges connected with the 1968 Chicago demonstrations (the case was declared a mistrial but Scale was given four years for contempt of court): and finally, on August 19, for murder, kidnapping, unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Panther members know Seale as an excellent speaker and organizer, whose efforts all over the West Coast played a large part in gathering public support for the "Free Hucy" demonstrations which, many observers feel, were responsible for the verdict of manslaughter which a predominantly white jury gave in the 1968 trial of Hucy Newton (the prosecution had asked for a conviction for first-degree murder, which would have meant the gas chamber).

Since 1968, Seale has crisscrossed the country speaking to groups of Panthers and white radicals, and helping to organize new chapters of the Party. On May 19, 1969, his travels brought him to Yale for a speaking engagement. This is where the late Alex Rackley, George Sams, and the electric chair entered his life.

George Sams-known for much of his life as "Crazy George" -spent three years between 1961 and 1964 in various mental institutions in New York, where he was listed as an "alleged dangerous mental defective.." In 1964, he was released after finally achieving a score of 75 on a standard IQ test-five points over the cutoff point for such a case.

After his release, Sams drifted for a few years, then joined the Black Panther Party, serving for a while as bodyguard to Stokely Carmichael. The New York Times, March 22, 1970, contains this description of Sams:

"In Detroit, Sams had several running with police, including one in 1966 when he was hospitalized after being shot in the head while breaking into a grocery store.

"Acquaintances in Detroit remember Sams as a braggart and a brawler. . . . They say he packed a revolver underneath a used choir robe that he said was a dashiki. At a rally in West Side Church, the audience giggled throughout a speech by [Stokely] Carmichael because Sams, recruited on stage as a bodyguard, tasted the water from a pitcher to test it for poison and drank it all."

He was expelled once from the Party for stabbing a fellow Panther. but Stokely Carmichael used his influence to get him readmitted. Carmichael says that he learned that Sams was a police agent early in May 1969, but was unable to communicate this information from Africa to the Panther leadership.

So far, George Sams seems to be the prosecution's only link to Bobby Scale. Last Wednesday, at a bail hearing for Seale, Sams testified that Seale had entered a room where other defendants were holding Rackley and asked "Is that a pig?" When the other Panthers replied that it was a pig, Sams said, Seale then replied, "what do you do with a pig? Off the [deleted]." He testified that he, Lonnie McLucas and Warren Kimbro, had driven Rackley to a place near the river. Then, Sams said, "Kimbro shot him first. Lonnie hit him second."

After his testimony was complete, presiding judge Harold M. Mulvey ordered that Sams be given a full psychiatric examination.