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Angela Davis Trial: 1972

Mysterious Telephone Number Surfaces

Prosecutor Harris next turned his attention to a piece of paper found on the body of Jonathan Jackson. On it was written a telephone number that corresponded to a public telephone at San Francisco International Airport. Harris contended that this clearly demonstrated a predisposition on the part of Jonathan Jackson to telephone Angela Davis at the airport, and that once Davis didn't receive the call she panicked and took the next available flight out to Los Angeles.

All of this sounded fine but did not bear close inspection. First of all, Branton established that the telephone was in the South Terminal, near the Western Airlines counter. Why, he speculated, had nobody seen Davis waiting by the phone? And why had she left the Western Airlines counter, which operated a convenient hourly shuttle to Los Angeles, and then walked over to the Central Terminal to catch a flight on Pacific Southwest Airlines? It didn't make sense.

In one last desperate effort to salvage their case, the prosecutors fought to introduce into evidence an 18-page "diary" that Davis had kept. While the diary clearly documented the intense love that Davis felt for George Jackson, it did not provide any evidence to support the indictment.

Such a lackluster prosecution hardly merited much of a response. Branton called just 12 witnesses to support his assertion that Angela Davis was entirely innocent, a mere victim of her own notoriety. The case went to the jury on June 2, 1972. They came back two days later with not-guilty verdicts on all three charges.

But for Angela Davis it was a Pyrrhic victory. Six months before she faced her accusers, George Jackson was himself shot to death in an alleged prison break.

Before the trial many, including some on her own defense team, doubted Angela Davis' chances of receiving a fair hearing from an all-white jury. That the jurors were able to separate politics and race from the essential facts of the case speaks volumes for their integrity, making this one of the legal system's finer moments.

Colin Evans

Suggestions for Further Reading

Aptheker, Bettina. The Morning Breaks. New York: International, 1975.

Davis, Angela. Angela Davis. New York: International, 1988.

Major, Reginald. Justice in the Round. New York: Third Press, 1973.

Mitchell, Charlene. The Fight to Free Angela Davis. New York: Outlook, 1972.

Timothy, Mary. Jury Woman. San Francisco: Glide, 1975.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Angela Davis Trial: 1972 - Davis Ridicules Case, Mysterious Telephone Number Surfaces