This Day in Black History: March 27, 1972

The Soledad Brothers were cleared of murder charges.

Posted: 03/27/2013 08:00 AM EDT

The day after declaring themselves "hopelessly deadlocked," an all-white jury cleared two of the three remaining Soledad Brothers of murder charges on March 27, 1972. Fleeta Drumgo and John Cluchette, as well as George Jackson, who'd been killed while in prison, had been accused in 1970 of killing white prison guard John Mills at the California maximum security Soledad Prison. Their alleged motive was retaliation for the shooting deaths of three Black prisoners during a fight in the exercise yard.

In August 1971, Jackson was killed during what guards characterized as an escape, leaving Drumgo and Cluchette to be tried for Mills' death. The belief that they weren't being treated fairly led to the creation of several defense committees and made them a cause célèbre. Supporters included Julian Bond, Angela Davis, Jane Fonda, the California Legislative Black Caucus and others.

Indeed, the case was so sensational, that a bulletproof structure had to be built in the courtroom to separate spectators from the legal teams and defendants.

The trial lasted 13 weeks. When the verdict was read, according to an Associated Press report, "Cluchette and Drumgo jumped up and hugged their court-appointed attorneys."

Drumgo was killed by gunfire on an Oakland street in November 1979.

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(Photo: AP)

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