Bail Set for ‘San Quentin Six’ Member
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A former Black Panther whose conviction in the murders of two prison guards during a 1971 escape attempt was overturned was ordered released on $350,000 bail Wednesday after 21 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, who previously granted Johnny Spain a new trial in the San Quentin Six case, rejected a state to delay the setting of bail.
Spain, 38, could be released from the California Medical Facility at Vacaville as early as Thursday, lawyers said.
″Mr. Spain would walk from here to Vacaville on hot coals before he would betray″ the people posting bail, said his lawyer, Dennis Riordan.
Wednesday’s ruling was the second court victory in as many days for Spain. He has been behind bars for more than half his life, since his arrest in 1966 for a murder and robbery in Los Angeles.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Parker ordered Spain paroled immediately from the sentence he has been serving for the 1966 murder, paving the way for Henderson to grant bail for the 1971 case.
Spain apparently joined the Black Panther Party after entering prison.
He became the only prisoner convicted of murder in a bloody escape attempt that took the lives of militant leader George Jackson, two other prisoners and three San Quentin guards.
The other members of the San Quentin Six were either convicted of lesser charges or acquitted.
Henderson granted Spain a new trial in 1986, saying he had been denied a fair trial by being required to wear heavy shackles for every court appearance during the five years of proceedings. The state is appealing that ruling.
Parker on Tuesday found that Spain was eligible for immediate parole in the 1966 case because the parole board had improperly lengthened his sentence six years by applying 1976 regulations to disciplinary violations committed in 1970 and 1971.
Riordan said Spain has been recommended for parole by numerous prison staffers, including a close friend of one of the slain guards, and two congressmen.
The lawyer said Spain had spent twice as long in prison as the average sentence for a similar crime.