Episode 6: The Trial
LAST WEEK ON NORCO 80:
George: I was kind of in half a daze getting ready to pass out
Russ: I”m not gonna sit here and freeze; I’m gonna find Chris...or go to jail where it’s nice and warm
Rolf: When they talk about the arming of police in America, it starts here. It starts with the Norco bank robbery.
DJ: Let’s put it this way: I would rather go through the shooting again than put up with what I had to put up with in court. And what they called me, what they said I was doing, what I was reading in my newspaper when I got home..that I killed Evans.
THE PRESS REFERRED TO THE REMAINING ROBBERS, CHRIS HARVEN, RUSS HARVEN AND GEORGE SMITH, AS “THE NORCO 3.”
“THE NORCO 3” WERE HELD AT THE RIVERSIDE COUNTY JAIL. AND ABOUT A WEEK AND A HALF AFTER THEY WERE ARRESTED, THEY HAD SOME VISITORS.
Detective: I t is ten oh one hours. Five nineteen Eighty. The following will be with Miss
Estrada and inmate Chris Harven.
THE POLICE MADE RECORDINGS OF SOME OF THESE VISITS. AND IN THEM, YOU CAN HEAR IT’S THE FIRST TIME THE ROBBERS HAD TO EXPLAIN WHAT THEY DID TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY.
ONE MORNING, CHRIS HARVEN, GEORGE’S ROOMMATE AND OLD-COWORKER FROM THE PARKS DEPARTMENT, MET WITH HIS NEW GIRLFRIEND OF THREE MONTHS: OLIVIA ESTRADA.
Chris:I wrote you a nice letter explaining everything I was going to get stamped envelopes today.
Olivia: I was going to bring you some stamp but I didn't. Chris: I love you.
CHRIS HARVEN, WHO HAD PROBLEMS WITH INFIDELITY IN HIS MARRIAGE ACCORDING TO HIS EX-WIFE, HAD BEEN SEEING MULTIPLE WOMEN IN THE LEADUP TO THE ROBBERY, INCLUDING OLIVIA.
WHEN SHE VISITED SHE SAT ON ONE SIDE OF A PLEXIGLASS BARRIER, SPEAKING THROUGH A TELEPHONE TO CHRIS.
Chris: I just went berserk. Things were going down in my life that I didn't like. You were one of the only things that were... you know a shining woman.
CHRIS TRIED TO EXPLAIN TO OLIVIA, WHY ALL OF THIS HAD HAPPENED.
Olivia: I thought I was making you happy.
Chris: Y ou were, you are, you're beautiful today. I know I
let you down a lot.
Olivia: I'm shocked.
Chris: I 'm shocked too, I didn't know what I was doing.
THEY TALKED ABOUT THE SLUG HE STILL HAD UNDER THE SKIN OF HIS CHEST. CHRIS TOLD OLIVIA HE WAS WORRIED SHE WAS BEING HARASSED BY PRESS. “POOR OLIVIA” HE TOLD HER.
Chris: P oor olivia.
Olivia: What do you mean poor olivia?
Chris: N ow, you’re suffering more than I am really.// I don’t know where I went wrong. I strayed off god's path for a moment and here I am. Billy and Manny and George were all running out of cash.
Olivia: So what was so important about that?
Chris: N othing none of that's important now I realized
I just want to look at you.
CHRIS TOLD HER “I JUST WANT TO LOOK AT YOU.”
Chris: Sorry you met me?
Olivia: No, I'll never be sorry about that. I'll just never
understand why that's all.
I’M ANTONIA CEREIJIDO AND FROM LAIST STUDIOS AND FUTURO STUDIOS THIS IS NORCO80, A SERIES ABOUT GOD, GUNS, SURVIVALISM AND THE BANK ROBBERY THAT CHANGED POLICING FOREVER.
THE ORDEAL OF THE NORCO BANK ROBBERY DIDN’T END WITH THE ARREST OF THE THREE REMAINING ROBBERS.
THEIR HEAVILY-COVERED, HIGH-PROFILE TRIAL WOULD BE THE LONGEST TRIAL THAT RIVERSIDE COUNTY HAD EVER SEEN.
IT WAS FULL OF CONFUSING AND UNEXPECTED MOMENTS, AS THE ROBBERS FACED THE EXTENSIVE EVIDENCE OF THEIR CRIMES.
BUT BEFORE THE TRIAL EVEN STARTED, THEY WOULD SPEND MORE THAN A YEAR SITTING IN JAIL, PROCESSING WHAT THEY DID AND TRYING TO EXPLAIN IT TO THEIR FAMILIES.
CHAPTER 6: THE TRIAL
Chris: O utside of some legal miracle it looks like I'll be either confined for an exceptionally long time or be killed.
Olivia: You know that hunh? chris: O h yeah. I accept it.
THEME MUSIC OUT
Detective: It is nine forty three hours, the next visit will be with Russell Harven and his father.
NINE DAYS INTO THEIR JAIL STAY, RUSS HARVEN - THE QUIET YOUNGER BROTHER OF CHRIS HARVEN - WAS VISITED BY HIS STEP FATHER, WALT. HIS MOTHER WAS TOO DISTRAUGHT TO COME.
Russ: H ow's mom doing?
Father: Well, you know, she's got to have a little time to get over this. She she didn't feel up to coming out today. She's stuttering funny to hear her stuttering but she gets over that. It just happens once in a while.
Russ: Y eah, I'm really sorry that this happened. Father: Yeah well, it's happened.
Russ: W ell I'm kind of sorry I'm kind of glad. Now I'm back to Christ.
IN JAIL, THE ROBBERS WERE RETREATING FURTHER INTO THEIR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. RUSS SAID THE GUARDS KEPT THEM AWAY FROM OTHER INMATES
Russ: T hey don't let us have any contact with the prisoners at all because they're afraid we're going to infect the rest of the population. You know, they think we're revolutionaries or something. George’s cell is right next to ours we talk to him through a vent in the roof. We are always finding things in the bible that reaffirm our faith and show us that it’s real, you know?
RUSS SAID THEY TALKED TO GEORGE THROUGH A VENT IN THE ROOF. AND THEY HAD ALL DECIDED THERE HAD TO BE A DIVINE REASON THEY HAD SURVIVED THE ROBBERY.
Russ: Yeah well me and Chris we figure Jesus Christ has got to have something planned for us because like I had a head wound, it went in traveled under the skin then went out, I'm still alive.
Russ: S o we figure Jesus Christ is watching over us for something
Father: Yeah, very good.
IT’S HARD TO TELL WHETHER HIS STEPFATHER TOOK THIS SERIOUSLY. HE TRIED TO STEER RUSS TOWARDS THE PRACTICAL.
Father: Oh, what did you want to do with your Volkswagen? Russ: I guess I don't know what do you guys want to do it. Russ: I'll never be driving it again.
Father: I don't know what else to say Russ.
RUSS BROUGHT THEIR CONVERSATION BACK TO RELIGION. HE TOLD HIS STEPFATHER NOT TO WORRY TOO MUCH ABOUT HIS SITUATION. HE BEGAN RECITING THE SIGNS THAT THE END TIMES WERE COMING, SOON.
Russ: I don't despair too much, as you know, we really believe how edgy the Russians are getting you know, they're going they're going to attack the whore of Babylon, which is the US.
HE SAID THE RUSSIANS WERE GOING TO ATTACK THE “WHORE OF BABYLON,” THE WHORE OF BABYLON REPRESENTS FOR SOME CHRISTIANS THE EMBODIMENT OF MORAL DECAY, AND, HER DOWNFALL IS A SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE. TO RUSS - IT REPRESENTED A CORRUPT, INDULGENT UNITED STATES, LOSING THE COLD WAR TO THE RUSSIANS.
Russ: A nd they said the fire raining down the sky, a lot of stuff that can only be interpreted only as nuclear war, you know, and talks about these different monsters. Like, you know, weird insects and mutations can radiate radiation. We just turn to Christ and if we keep our faith, something is going to happen.
Father: Well, I'm glad you guys have turned to the Bible, gives you some solace.
BUT WHILE THEY SAT IN JAIL AWAITING THE END TIMES THE NORCO 3 COMPLAINED ABOUT HOW THEY WERE BEING TREATED. RUSS SAID THEY WEREN’T GETTING EXERCISE, AND HE WASN’T GETTING ENOUGH INSULIN FOR HIS DIABETES.. THE NORCO 3 WOULD LATER MAKE AN OFFICIAL
COMPLAINT TO THE COURT, SAYING THEY WERE INTENTIONALLY PREVENTED FROM SLEEPING, AND CONSTANTLY SUBJECTED TO CELL SEARCHES.
Russ: L ast three days in a row, and they're rousting our cell they don't let us get any sleep at night, they're always banging doors, opening and banging our door. Father: I don’t know what’s usual in this type of big one, it’s a big one.
Russ: t hat’s what I hear. MUSIC
THIS CASE WAS A BIG ONE FOR RIVERSIDE COUNTY. THE NORCO 3 WOULD EVENTUALLY EACH BE CHARGED WITH 46 COUNTS, INCLUDING KIDNAPPING, ARSON, ARMED ROBBERY, AND FIRST-DEGREE MURDER.
RUSS AND CHRIS HARVEN WOULD HAVE PRIVATE ATTORNEYS AT TRIAL. GEORGE SMITH WOULD BE ASSIGNED A PUBLIC DEFENDER.
Debbie: I remember the phone call coming into the public defender's office. And I remember all the attorneys and, you know, running around and having meetings here and there.
DEBBIE ROSE WAS WORKING FOR THE RIVERSIDE PUBLIC DEFENDER’S OFFICE AT THE TIME. I ASKED HER TO DESCRIBE HERSELF.
Debbie: Oh, geez, now you're going to put me like I'm having a job interview, and that's been a while.
Debbie: Well, I'm fun. I’m a hard worker. Always have been a hard worker.
THIS WAS DEBBIE’S FIRST JOB OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL, DELIVERING SUBPOENAS. BUT EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS YOUNG, SHE WOULD GET ROPED IN TO HELP ON GEORGE SMITH’S DEFENSE.
Debbie: Everybody liked me in the office.
Debbie: Jeanne the investigator needed help because it was you know, we had to interview over 100 people. I mean they all were witnesses.
DEBBIE WOULD BE HIRED TO HELP JEANNE PAINTER, THE CHIEF INVESTIGATOR. PART OF DEBBIE’S JOB WAS VISITING GEORGE SMITH AT THE RIVERSIDE COUNTY JAIL, SPENDING TIME GOING OVER NOTES WITH HIM ON THE CASE.
Debbie:I got this case right out of high school. I didn't know anything about the law or criminals or anything like that until I started working for the public defender's office. So I was very impressionable and innocent.
DEBBIE HAD NEVER MET SOMEONE LIKE GEORGE BEFORE.
Debbie: He even wrote a book while he was in jail and it's handwritten, and it was called Armageddon. I thought, well. To me, I just thought that was looney tunes. I didn't think that was going to happen during my lifetime, I mean, because I'm pretty religious myself and read the Bible and all that.
BUT SHE WAS DETERMINED TO REPRESENT HER CLIENT AS WELL AS SHE COULD.
ALL THREE OF THE ROBBER'S LAWYERS, WOULD PETITION THE COURT TO HAVE THEIR OWN SEPARATE TRIALS. BUT THE COURT ULTIMATELY DECIDED WOULD BE TRIED TOGETHER.
AND BECAUSE OF THE SEVERITY OF THEIR CHARGES - ALL THREE WERE ALSO ELIGIBLE FOR THE DEATH PENALTY.
AT THE RIVERSIDE COUNTY JAIL - THE NORCO 3 KNEW THAT THE CHANCES OF A NOT - GUILTY VERDICT WERE BLEAK.
Father: You got any valuables in your room that we should know about, put away for you?
Russ: I 'm not going to need any of that stuff, we're going straight to death row.
Father: Well, they haven't convicted you yet. Still not guilty.
Russ: N o matter what they do to us here, to our physical bodies, it doesn’t matter because we'll be spending eternity in heaven instead of going to hell.
RUSS HARVEN TOLD HIS STEP FATHER “NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO TO US HERE TO OUR PHYSICAL BODIES IT DOESN’T MATTER, BECAUSE WE’LL BE SPENDING ETERNITY IN HEAVEN.
That's about the only consolation we've been able to get by with. WE’LL BE RIGHT BACK.
WE’RE BACK. ACCORDING TO DEBBIE ROSE - THE INVESTIGATOR’S ASSISTANT FOR THE DEFENSE, THE STAKES OF THIS CASE COULD NOT BE HIGHER.
Debbie: It was like good versus evil. That's best well how I can put it. You know, bad versus good. It was supposed to be that the DA was good, but for me it was just the opposite.
DEBBIE BELIEVED GEORGE SMITH AND THE OTHER ROBBERS WERE JUST A GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO WERE IN A TOUGH SPOT AND MADE A BAD DECISION.
Debbie: He was going to be losing his house, you know, it was going in foreclosure, they all needed money. They were all desperate.
THE DEFENSE TEAM ESTABLISHED THAT IT HAD ONE GOAL.
Debbie: We just did not want them to get the death penalty. And sent to to to die. That's all we were trying, we, of course, could not deny that the crime occurred. That would be silly.
ON THE PROSECUTION SIDE -THEY ALSO HAD ONE GOAL - TO PROVE BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT THAT THE NORCO 3 WERE GUILTY.
Debbie: Prosecutors. The main thing that we have to do on very serious cases is to make sure nothing goes wrong, because if a prosecutor is doing his or her job properly, you don't file losers into court. You don’t.
THIS IS KEVIN RUDDY - HE WAS A YOUNG AND EAGER DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR THE STATE.
Debbie: It wasn't... tactically it was not a difficult case. It was pretty obvious what had occurred. And it was a matter of just being able to present that to a jury.
BUT STILL - THE PROSECUTION WAS FEELING A LOT OF PRESSURE. THIS WAS A CASE IN WHICH AN OFFICER DIED AND SO LOCAL POLICE AGENCIES WERE WATCHING CLOSELY. KEVIN COULD ONLY IMAGINE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF THEY WEREN’T ABLE TO CONVINCE THE JURY THAT THE ROBBERS WERE GUILTY.
Kevin: They're going to come after us with pitchforks and torches.
GIVEN THE HIGH PROFILE OF THE CASE IN RIVERSIDE COUNTY, THE JUDGE GRANTED A REQUEST TO MOVE THE TRIAL DOWN AN HOUR AND A HALF SOUTH TO VISTA, CALIFORNIA - IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY WHERE JURORS WERE LESS LIKELY TO HAVE HEARD OF THE BANK ROBBERY.
DEBBIE REMEMBERS HAVING TO RELOCATE AND ROOM WITH HER BOSS JEANNE PAINTER.
Debbie: So they set us up. The public defender's office got us an apartment in Vista, California, which was very convenient, and so me and Jeanne...of course, she got the bed and I got a cot.
IN THE BALMY JULY HEAT OF SAN DIEGO, THE JURY SELECTION GOT OFF TO A SLOW START. WE CAN’T CONFIRM THIS BUT ACCORDING TO DEBBIE, IT TOOK SO LONG IT EVEN BROKE A RECORD.
Debbie: For that time we made the Guinness Book - it was the longest jury selection. In history.
IT TOOK SO LONG PARTLY BECAUSE THIS WAS ONE OF THE FIRST CALIFORNIA CASES IN YEARS WITH THE DEATH PENALTY ON THE TABLE.
IN 1972 - THE CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT HAD RULED THAT THE DEATH PENALTY WAS UNCONSITUTIONAL.
Archival: The state’s highest court ruled against the death penalty calling it “incompatible with the dignity of man and the judicial process.”
Kevin: So people that were on death row got a reprieve. Their cases were reverted to life in prison. That's why Charles Manson was in prison all these years.
BUT IN 1977, THREE YEARS BEFORE THE ROBBERY, THE DEATH PENALTY WAS REINSTATED IN CALIFORNIA. AND THE NORCO 3 TRIAL WOULD BE ONE OF THE FIRST DEATH PENALTY TRIALS TO TEST THAT LAW IN RIVERSIDE COUNTY.
AND THIS MEANT EVERY JUROR HAD TO BE WHAT’S KNOWN AS DEATH QUALIFIED .
Kevin: That means they're not completely against the death penalty and they're not completely in favor of it, except they have an open mind whether or not the death penalty should be an appropriate punishment.
FINALLY ON DECEMBER 15, 1981 - SIX MONTHS AFTER JURY SELECTION STARTED - 12 JURORS AND EIGHT ALTERNATES WERE SEATED.
A ONCE VERY CONFIDENT PROSECUTION TEAM, WAS FINDING ITSELF A LITTLE UNEASY.
Kevin: By the time we were getting 6 months into the jury, months into the trial, I was really concerned about something strange happening. Is something gonna go wrong? Are we not gonna convict them of everything...
THE TRIAL BEGAN ON JANUARY 4, 1982 IN VISTA, CALIFORNIA. ALMOST TWO YEARS AFTER THE NORCO BANK ROBBERY.
THE STATE WOULD PRESENT THEIR CASE AGAINST THE ROBBERS FIRST.
Kevin: You don't go into a lot of detail. You want them to understand that, look, we had a group of people that consider themselves survivalists.
KEVIN RUDDY, THE PROSECUTOR, GAVE THE OPENING STATEMENT. NEXT TO HIM WAS A TABLE LOADED WITH WEAPONRY AS A VISUAL AID. BOMBS, ASSAULT RIFLES, AMMUNITION BOXES, EVERYTHING THE ROBBERS HAD BEEN ARMED WITH THAT DAY. HE ADDRESSED THE JURY- HOLDING AN ASSAULT RIFLE IN HIS HAND.
Kevin: You take them through the facts that occurred. They thought there was going to be Armageddon and they went about a plan to be able to run off into the mountains of Utah and survive.
AFTER THE OPENING STATEMENT - ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS THE PROSECUTION DID WAS BRING IN THE FAMILY MEMBERS OF ALL THE ROBBERS.
INCLUDING MEMBERS OF THE DELGADO FAMILY.
KEVIN: one of the things that I wanted to get out of the way was identifying the bank robbers that were one was killed at the bank. One was killed up in the mountain. OK; the Delgados.
THE PROSECUTION NEEDED TO IDENTIFY THE NORCO 3 AND THE TWO DECEASED DELGADO BROTHERS. TO ESTABLISH THAT THEY WERE FRIENDS AND GUN-ENTHUSIASTS. MANUEL DELGADO SR, THE FATHER OF 21-YEAR OLD MANNY AND 17-YEAR OLD BILLY WHO HAD BOTH DIED THAT DAY, RELUCTANTLY AGREED TO TESTIFY.
Kevin: Getting Delgado's father in there was basically laying a subpoena on him. And I remember the person who laid the subpoena had a discussion with him. Someone for your family is going to get subpoenaed. Who was who do you
want it to be? And he basically said, OK, I'll take the subpoena. They weren't talking. They weren’t talking to us. You gotta keep in mind, if you look at the Delgados, both the sons were dead.
KEVIN QUESTIONED HIM FIRST BRIEFLY AND THEN A DEFENSE LAWYER TOOK OVER.
Kevin: I put him on the stand, had him identify some photographs. That's his son. I sat down and shut up. And then I don't know who the first defense attorney was, stood up. And “wasn't it true that he had sixty five bullet holes in him?”
THE DEFENSE WAS TRYING TO DRAW ATTENTION TO THE WAY THAT MANNY DIED, TO IMPLY THE POLICE HAD OVERREACTED.
MANNY HAD BEEN SHOT 4 TIMES, BUT BECAUSE OF THE SPRAY PATTERN OF THE SHOTGUN PELLETS, HIS BODY HAD OVER 60 WOUNDS ON IT, ACCORDING TO THE AUTOPSY.
Kevin: So right off the bat, you could see what their defense was going to be. That it was a big out of control situation caused by the police.
WE REACHED OUT TO SEVERAL MEMBERS OF THE DELGADO FAMILY WHO DECLINED TO BE INTERVIEWED. BUT FROM THESE BRIEF INTERACTIONS IT WAS CLEAR THAT THE LOSS OF TWO FAMILY MEMBERS IS STILL TRAUMATIC.
THEN, THE PROSECUTION BEGAN GETTING INTO THE MEAT OF THE CASE. THEY PRESENTED WITNESS AFTER WITNESS WHO HAD BEEN AT THE SCENE OF THE BANK AND IN THE CHASE. THEY MARCHED THROUGH THE EVENTS OF THAT LONG DAY IN MAY, WITH THE PURPOSE OF LAYING OUT EVIDENCE, BUT ALSO CLASHING OVER KEY DEBATED FACTS OF THE CASE.
TO MAKE THEIR CASE, BOTH LEGAL TEAMS WOULD NEED TO BE FAMILIAR WITH ALL THE GUNS USED THAT DAY. THE DEFENSE AND THE PROSECUTION WOULD EACH SEND SOMEONE TO TEST THE FIREARMS AND ANALYZE THEIR SPRAY PATTERNS.
DEBBIE WAS THE PERSON SELECTED FROM THE DEFENSE TEAM. AND DESPITE THE SOMBER NATURE OF THE OUTING - SHE MANAGED TO HAVE FUN AND EVEN GET ALONG WITH A MEMBER OF THE PROSECUTION TEAM.
Debbie: Oh, I loved it. I loved that part, and actually, I was the first time I ever held a gun. And picture this I have this shotgun in my hand then he says, “OK, Now go ahead and shoot.” And I shot. And then he got right up against behind me again and caught me before I fell. We had to do different spray patterns is what we were after.
THROUGHOUT THE TRIAL, DEBBIE WAS ALSO STARTING TO GROW CLOSE TO GEORGE SMITH.
Debbie: And to me, he didn't seem harmful, I wasn't scared when I first met him, I wasn't scared at all. His hair was very thick, you know, he's got a big bushel of hair. And then he had these big glasses, these framed glasses. So it even made them look kind of nerdish.
ASC: Did it surprise you that you weren’t scared?
Debbie: It did. Yes, it did. Because of all of this hoopla. THE CASE WAS FREQUENTLY IN THE NEWS AND HER FAMILY DID NOT SHARE
HER ENTHUSIASM OVER HER JOB ON GEORGE’S DEFENSE TEAM.
Debbie: My family - they would get mad at me and, you know, I would try to explain and they just didn't want to hear it. You know this guy’s mean and guilty and “murderer.”
BUT DEBBIE SAYS SHE KNEW A DIFFERENT GEORGE.
Debbie: George was fun, I mean, I hate to say that, but he he's, you know, he's very witty, dry sense of humor, but always cracking a joke. I mean, he always.. he’d always try to keep me laughing for some reason.
AND WHEN SHE LOOKED AT HIM SHE DIDN’T SEE THE IMAGE THAT WAS IN THE NEWSPAPERS - A BEWILDERED MAN WITH CRAZED HAIR COVERED IN CUTS AND BRUISES, SHE SAW THE MAN SHE HELPED CLEAN UP. GEORGE HAD HIS HAIR CUT. HIS BEARD WAS TRIMMED DOWN TO A TIDY MOUSTACHE. DEBBIE
WOULD BRING HIM HIS DARK SUIT AND STRIPED TIE EVERY MORNING BEFORE COURT WAS IN SESSION.
Debbie: You know, you don't you're not looking scraggly or nothing like that when you're going to court. You always make sure your client looks their best.
AFTER FOUR MONTHS, THE TRIAL FINALLY ARRIVED AT THE MOST CONTENTIOUS ISSUE OF THE CASE - THE QUESTION OF WHO KILLED OFFICER JIM EVANS IN LYTLE CREEK.
TO GIVE THE JURY A VISUAL AID OF THAT WINDING CHASE, A PROSECUTOR HAD COMMISSIONED A ONE THOUSAND DOLLAR SCALE MODEL OF THE MOUNTAIN THAT WAS OVER SIX FEET LONG AND TWO FEET WIDE. IT WAS MADE FROM CHICKEN WIRE, A COMPOUND PLASTER CALLED SCULPTAMOLD, GRAVEL, AND FEATURED REMARKABLY ACCURATE FIGURINES OF PEOPLE AND CARS.
OFFICERS WHO TOOK THE STAND WERE ASKED TO PAINSTAKINGLY PLACE A MINIATURE TRUCK AND POLICE VEHICLES ALL ALONG IT THROUGHOUT THEIR TESTIMONY. IT WAS JUST ONE OF THE DIZZYING ASPECTS OF THE TRIAL FOR DEPUTY SHERIFF DJ MCCARTY.
DJ: A re you familiar with the movie To Kill a Mockingbird? That's what it looked like. It was packed, packed to the gills. It's got this gigantic bench for the judge, it's all this ornate everything. You've got the press in the hallways taking pictures, people asking you questions.
DEPUTY SHERIFF DJ MCCARTY WAS THE OFFICER THAT WIELDED THE M16 HE WASN’T TRAINED TO USE AT THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN.
AND FROM THE GET GO - HE WAS NOT HAPPY TO BE IN COURT.
DJ: W hile I'm sitting there, I am getting more and more nervous, and I remember sitting there going, “I can't do this, I can't do this.” And I looked down in the lapel of my jacket, my suit jacket is bouncing up in the air with a heartbeat. And I went “I can't do this.”
THE REASON DJ WAS EXTREMELY NERVOUS IS THAT UNLIKE MOST OTHER OFFICERS WHO HAD TO SIMPLY RECOUNT WHAT THEY REMEMBERED FROM THAT DAY, DJ ALSO HAD TO DEFEND HIMSELF: THE ROBBERS’ ATTORNEYS WERE ARGUING THAT DJ WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR OFFICER JIM EVANS’ DEATH.
HE HAD ALREADY HEARD RUMORS IN THE PRESS AND AT THE OFFICE ABOUT THIS ACCUSATION.
DJ: I've heard people talking, you know, about, hey, I had no business being up there with a gun he didn't know how to handle. And did he shoot Evans?
THIS WOULD BE A HUGE DEAL FOR THE NORCO 3’S CASE. THE MOST SERIOUS OFFENSE THEY WERE CHARGED WITH WAS KILLING AN OFFICER.
THE DEFENSE ARGUED THAT DEPUTY SHERIFF DJ MCCARTY FIRED THE FATAL ROUND INVOLUNTARILY, SHOOTING THE M16 THROUGH HIS WINDSHIELD WHILE HE WAS INSIDE HIS VEHICLE.
Debbie: Officer Evans. was shot by a police officer. You know, when he turned his head around, he caught it right in the eye and it killed him instantly.
TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS, BOTH LEGAL TEAMS NEEDED DJ TO HAND OVER PART OF THE EVIDENCE THAT HAD BEEN ODDLY GIFTED TO HIM AFTER THE SHOOT-OUT.
DJ: M y buddies at Fontana Station, took the windshield out, had the windshield Bullet holes cut out of it, and presented to me.
THIS MORBID MEMENTO HELD THE ANSWER TO WHETHER THE BULLET IN THE WINDSHIELD CAME FROM WITHIN OR OUTSIDE OF THE VEHICLE
DJ: S o they sent that to the labs, send it back east somewhere to prove that they're trying to say that I shot out the window.
A CRIMINALIST WOULD LATER TESTIFY THAT THE BULLET HOLES IN THE WINDOW HAD DEFINITELY COME FROM THE OUTSIDE, NOT FROM DJ INSIDE THE VEHICLE.
DJ: A nd then they tried to do the thing that the bullet that was in Evans's head was my bullet because it was so deformed that you couldn't do ballistics on it.
THE DEFENSE AND PROSECUTION FOUGHT ON AN ON OVER THIS. THEY BOTH PUT CHEMISTS ON THE STAND WITH OPPOSING OPINIONS.
TO CONCLUDE THIS QUESTION OF WHO KILLED JIM EVANS, THE JUDGE DID SOMETHING UNUSUAL. HE REQUESTED THAT THE JURY MAKE A SPECIAL FINDING TO DETERMINE THE KILLER. IT WAS PRESENTED LIKE A MULTIPLE CHOICE QUIZ. THE JURY COULD VOTE BETWEEN ANY OF THE SURVIVING ROBBERS, THE LATE MANNY DELGADO, A POLICE OFFICER... OR T HEY COULD SAY THAT THEY COULDN’T DETERMINE BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT
A VOTE WOULD DETERMINE WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR JIM EVAN’S DEATH.
THE BALLOT THAT HE WOULD GET BACK FROM THE JURY WOULD HAVE A CHECKMARK NEXT TO ONE NAME: MANNY DELGADO. MANNY WAS THE OLDER DELGADO BROTHER WHO DIED IN LYTLE CREEK.
THIS WAS A WIN FOR RUSS, CHRIS AND GEORGE. BECAUSE AT LEAST, THEY WEREN’T SEEN AS THE DIRECT MURDERERS OF JIM EVANS.
WE’LL BE RIGHT BACK.
THE NORCO 3 TRIAL WAS MARKED BY A CONTENTIOUS ATMOSPHERE BETWEEN THE PROSECUTION AND THE DEFENSE. THAT AT TIMES WOULD DESCEND INTO THE ABSURD.
DJ MCCARTY SAID THAT WHEN HE WAS ON THE STAND, THE ROBBERS ANTAGONIZED HIM FROM THE DEFENSE TABLE.
DJ: j ust some of the stupidest things, one of them shot a rubber band at me while I was on the stand. They would put
their hands in certain positions while I was testifying and flip me off.
AT ANOTHER POINT DURING AN ARGUMENT BETWEEN THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY AND A DEFENSE LAWYER, THEY BEGAN FLINGING OFFICE SUPPLIES AT EACH OTHER IN FRONT OF THE JURY.
“I WOULD ADMONISH ALL COUNSEL” SAID THE JUDGE. “DON’T THROW PENCILS.”
Debbie: And they developed a hatred, I think, for one another because they just they pounded each other.
IT WAS CALLED THE “PENCIL FENCING INCIDENT” IN THE PRESS.
Kevin: And one time the judge photographed the jury.
AND KEVIN RUDDY THE PROSECUTOR, SAYS THE JUDGE IN THE MIDDLE OF
TESTIMONY, TOOK OUT HIS OWN CAMERA.
Kevin: Well, this defense attorney was examining a witness and all of a sudden the judge pops up with his camera and takes a picture of the jury. And so the attorney says, your honor, I object, I'm asking questions of this witness. And the judge goes “oh I just wanted to get a picture of the jury,” so the jury was looking at him and the camera and not the witness on the stand.
It's the only time I agreed with one of the defense attorney's objections.
AND IN LATE APRIL OF 1982, THE CASE WOULD ALMOST BE DERAILED BY A MISTRIAL.
IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT HAPPENED DURING THE BANK ROBBERY. INSTEAD, THE CONFLICT WAS OVER GEORGE’S INVESTIGATOR, JEANNE PAINTER.
DEBBIE: Jeannie was tall. She was of blond hair. And I would say she was five nine probably.
JEANNE WORKED ON GEORGE SMITH’S DEFENSE AND DURING THE TRIAL SHE LIVED WITH HER ASSISTANT DEBBIE ROSE.
Debbie: And she looked like Twiggy and that’s no joke. she also wore glasses, framed glasses and... very smart. She always found a lot of good case law.
ONE DAY, JEANNE PAINTER WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF A VISIT WITH GEORGE SMITH, WHEN THE VISTA JAIL DEPUTIES SUDDENLY EJECTED HER.
THEY WOULDN’T GIVE HER A REASON WHY, BUT LATER A JAIL EMPLOYEE REPORTED SEEING HER ENGAGE IN “SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY OF A SEXUAL NATURE” WITH GEORGE IN THE VISITORS BOOTH. THE JAIL REPORT WAS LEAKED TO THE PRESS.
DEBBIE SAYS SHE REMEMBERED JEANNE TALKING TO GEORGE ON THE PHONE.
Debbie: she couldn't hide it because I was living there and he would call her on the phone and, you know. And I could tell by you can tell by the tone.
REPORTERS DUG UP THAT JEANNE HAD BEEN PREVIOUSLY MARRIED TO A FORMER CLIENT WHO WAS SERVING TIME FOR SECOND-DEGREE MURDER.
JEANNE WAS PLACED ON LEAVE FROM THE PUBLIC DEFENDER’S OFFICE. AND GEORGE’S LAWYER MOVED FOR A MISTRIAL - CITING THE NEGATIVE PUBLICITY.
SHE WOULD BE DISMISSED FROM THE PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICE ON MAY 13, 1982. BUT SHE WOULD CONTINUE TO WORK AS A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR FOR GEORGE SMITH’S CASE.
Kevin: In some respects it didn’t really surprise me. But thinking about it was what’s next, because the case case was already strange enough.
AND IT WOULD GET STRANGER
IN A RISKY GAMBLE TO SECURE A NOT GUILTY VERDICT, CHRIS HARVEN AND HIS LAWYER DECIDED TO TELL AN ALTERNATIVE STORY OF WHAT HAPPENED THE DAY OF THE ROBBERY.
Kevin: When he was interviewed by the police. He admitted being involved, going to the bank robbery and everything he gets on the stand and basically says that he got out of the van.
CHRIS WOULD TAKE THE STAND AND HE WOULD TESTIFY - CONTRARY TO HIS PREVIOUS COMMENTS TO POLICE - THAT HE WAS ACTUALLY NEVER AT THE BANK THAT DAY.
AND IN FACT- SOMEONE ELSE HAD DONE THE THINGS HE WAS ACCUSED OF ALONG WITH GEORGE SMITH AND RUSS HARVEN.
Kevin: And it was Jerry Cohen who was. The third guy inside the bank.
HE SAID A MAN, NAMED JERRY COHEN HAD BEEN A PART OF THEIR PLAN. HE SAID HE WAS A MAN WITH A BOBBED “PRINCE-VALIANT” STYLE HAIRCUT WHO “ALWAYS HAD A GOOD TAN.” THE PROBLEM WAS CHRIS HAD NEVER MENTIONED A JERRY COHEN BEFORE,.NONE OF THE ROBBERS HAD.
Kevin: Now apparently he was asked, well, why didn't you say this to the police? First off. “I didn't trust the police, you know? You know.”
CHRIS SAID THAT HE HAD REFUSED TO BE PART OF THE BANK ROBBERY, THAT INSTEAD JERRY COHEN HAD BEEN THE ONE TO ROB IT. HIS LAWYER PRESENTED WITNESSES THAT HAD HEARD THE ROBBERS CALL OUT THE NAME “JERRY” INSIDE THE BANK.
Debbie: But by God, where they came up with that, I have no idea. Let's pull someone out of the sky I guess.
HE SAID THE OTHER ROBBERS HAD FORCED HIM TO DRIVE THEIR YELLOW TRUCK INTO THE WILDERNESS WHERE THEY SURRENDERED.
KEVIN: I've heard some big ones, OK, even at that point in time. And this was just amazing.
THIS INVENTION OF ANOTHER MAN WHO DID THE ROBBERY - WHO HADN’T BEEN CAUGHT AND WAS STILL AT LARGE - IT WASN’T JUST AN OUTLANDISH CONCEPT, IT WOULD SERIOUSLY DAMAGE THE OTHER TWO ROBBERS CASE.
BECAUSE WHEN CHRIS WAS QUESTIONED ABOUT JERRY COHEN ON THE STAND - HE WAS ALSO QUESTIONED ABOUT HOW THIS NEW TESTIMONY DIRECTLY CONTRADICTED WHAT HE HAD TOLD POLICE ON TAPE.
AND ON TAPE, HE HAD DIRECTLY IMPLICATED HIS FRIEND GEORGE AND HIS BROTHER RUSS IN THE CRIMES OF THAT DAY.
Detective: W ho ran the show? Somebody was running the show
Chris: George is the one who ran the whole show what we were going to do. Thats george’s bank, cased it out while he was there doing his bank work.
IT WAS A BLOW TO RUSS AND GEORGE.
KEVIN: And then the next day he's in the court room and he has a bruise on his face. And they put him on the stand. He said he got beat up in the jail because now they're calling him a snitch.
CHRIS HARVEN WOULD ONLY SAY “INMATES” HAD BEATEN HIM, SAYING “THEY TOLD ME TO SHUT UP AND I HAD BETTER STAY OFF THE STAND.”
ON JULY 8, 1982, AFTER AN EXHAUSTING YEAR OF BITTER ARGUING, ANTICS, AND UPSETTING TESTIMONY, ALL THE EVIDENCE WAS GIVEN AND THE TRIAL WAS COMING TO A CLOSE. THERE HAD BEEN MORE THAN 200 WITNESSES.
ASC: Before the jury was sequestered, like when all of the evidence was presented, how were you feeling? How was the team feeling?
Kevin: Well, the thing is, when you when you do the arguments, you know, when you listen to it, all you could really see that... the defense really had nothing to say. Yeah, they they did have something to say in terms of what gun fired the fatal shot for Jim Evans. But in terms of
minimizing the conduct of any of the defendants, they couldn't do it.
AT THIS STAGE IN THE GAME, THE DEFENSE’S INVESTMENT WAS MORE THAN JUST PROFESSIONAL.
Debbie: And I mean, I grew a liking to them as well. You know, I was there every day. I mean, you don't, you know, see them every day without developing some type of friendship.
ASC: So how did you feel your chances were?
Debbie: Ummm, you never know with a jury. Sometimes they looked bewildered.
THE JURY WOULD DELIBERATE FOR 15 DAYS
Kevin: So finally one time at around 4 o clock the tell us they have verdicts.
JAIL GUARDS PROMPTLY BROUGHT THE DEFENDANTS THEIR SUITS WHILE ATTORNEYS HOPPED INTO THEIR CARS AND RUSHED TO THE COURTHOUSE.
BY 7:45 PM, THE SPECTATOR GALLEY WAS CRAMMED WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS OF THE DEFENDANTS. SOME WHO HAD ANXIOUSLY ATTENDED EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE TRIAL FOR SIX GRUELING MONTHS.
GEORGE SLUMPED HIS HEAD ON THE TABLE AS THE FOREMAN BEGAN TO READ.
Debbie: I remember all I kept hearing... and it started ringing in my ears is guilty, guilty, guilty...like guilty on on on everything, even the littlest things.
It rang, it actually was ringing in my ears. Guilty, guilty...
DEBBIE TURNED HER ATTENTION TO THE PROSECUTION WHO SHE KNEW WOULD BE HAPPY TO HEAR THESE RESULTS.
Debbie: they're practically jumping up and down hearing all those guilties.
And I they were doing, you know, fist pumps, you know what I mean?
The “Yeah! yeah!”
KEVIN RUDDY OF THE PROSECUTION REMEMBERS THAT MOMENT
Kevin: And we were relieved. You know, we didn't screw up. MUSIC OUT
EVEN IF THE JURY DID NOT THINK ANY OF THE NORCO 3 HAD SHOT THE FINAL ROUND THAT KILLED OFFICER EVANS, THEY STILL FOUND THEM RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS DEATH.
THE NORCO 3 WERE FOUND GUILTY ON ALL CHARGES, BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT RULING WAS STILL TO BE CANNOUNCED.
THE NORCO 3 WOULD RETURN TO COURT AND AWAIT THEIR FATE. TO LEARN WHETHER THEY WOULD GET LIFE IN PRISON WITHOUT PAROLE OR THE DEATH PENALTY.
WHETHER THEY WOULD LIVE OR DIE.
NEXT TIME ON NORCO 80 -
George: Is this Antonia?
ASC: Yes, hi George, can you hear me? George: I can. Are you set up?
ASC: Yes, we’re recording right now
GEORGE SMITH GRANTS US HIS FIRST EVER RECORDED INTERVIEW.
George: I’ve kept my silence because I thought this thing would just go away but obviously it hasn’t and there are things that should be said.
NEXT WEEK, OUR CONVERSATION.
Norco 80 is written and produced by me, Antonia Cereijido and by Sophia Paliza Carre. The show is a production of LAist Studios in collaboration with Futuro Studios.
Leo G is the executive producer for LAist Studios. Marlon Bishop is the executive producer for Futuro Studios.
Audrey Quinn our editor
Joaquin Cotler is our Associate Producer. Juan Diego Ramirez is our Production Assistant.
Marialexa Kavanaugh is our intern.
Fact checking by Amy Tardif.
Engineering by Stephanie Lebow
Original music by Zach Robinson.
This podcast is based on the book Norco '80 by Peter Houlahan
Our website is designed by Andy Cheatwood and the digital and marketing teams at LAist Studios.
The marketing team of LAist Studios created our branding.
Thanks to the team at LAist Studios, including: Kristen Hayford, Taylor Coffman, Kristen Muller, and Leo G.
If you want to hear more Norco ‘80 please follow or subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, NPR One, the iHeart App or wherever you get your podcasts. And don’t forget to rate and review the show!