Production Team: X
Interview Date: October 18, 1988
Camera Rolls: 3017-3020
Sound Rolls: 309-310
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Flint Taylor, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on October 18, 1988, for Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965 to 1985. Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of Eyes on the Prize.
What brought you, first brought you in contact with the Panthers in '68 and '69. What were you doing?
Well, I was a law student, and was working in an office which came to be known as the People's Law Office. And, that summer in '69, uh, a lot was going on between the Panthers and, uh, the police here in the city. And we, as young lawyers who were involved with, and had an interest in defending people who were involved in the struggle for social change, ended up being the lawyers for the Panthers. And so, the first thing I did with regard to that was work on a bond petition, uh, for Fred Hampton, who was in jail at the time, who had been sent to jail by Ed Hanrahan, for, uh, supposedly stealing $71 worth of ice-cream. So I was going around getting statements from people, uh, in the community, and, uh, t--about what kind of a person Fred Hampton was. So I kind of knew Fred Hampton before I ever met him. And I understood what kind of a person he was, what kind of a leader he was. You know, he was my contemporary, he was even younger than I was. I was probably 23 or something like that, a first year law student, and he was 20, 21. And obviously he impressed me even before I had met him. Uh--
And you really saw, from one step removed, the kind of police and legal harassment that these guys were facing. What, what were some of the things that really struck you as you became involved in their legal struggles with them?
Well, it was just one thing after another. It was people being framed and, and sent to jail. It was people, uh, there were shoot-outs between the police and the Panthers. It always seemed that the police would go by the headquarters on Madison street, and, uh, provoke something. And then there'd be some shooting, and people would be arrested, and they'd be charged with attempted murder, and people would be getting shot. And, uh, those were the kinds of things that were happening all through the summer, and, uh, there was a question even then kind of, uh, in our minds about was this more organized than just some kind of, uh, hit or miss type of thing with the police? Was there something bigger behind this, because of course in the national government at that time we had Nixon and, and, and Mitchell, and, and they had made no bones about what they thought about the Black liberation struggle and what, and of course, Hoover, uh, the main man, and what they were doing. So, although we didn't know then, what we know now is certainly was there right in our faces, what, what, what the kind of repression that was going on.
Now can you think back, can you, uh, about the first time you met Fred, the situation, and what were you doing with him, and what did he do that evening?
Well, there's two things that--
There's two things about when I met Fred. The first time I actually saw Fred was quite remarkable, and that was, uh, the work I was talking about of getting the bond petition together, and this is one of the ironies, I think, of the whole thing. We were successful and we got him out of jail towards the end of that summer. Because a Supreme Court Justice in the state of Illinois looked at what kind of a person he was, looked at the kind of case it was, and gave him an appeal bond. So, uh, he got out towards the end of the summer. And he had been in jail down state in Menard. And he came back, and there was like a celebration speech type of thing at a church, on the near West side here in Chicago. That's the first time I saw Fred Hampton, and I was a young, White student in a predominantly, uh, Black, uh, church full to the rafters, uh, welcoming Fred Hampton back**. And this man was just so impressive. Ah, and, uh, he just, he talked about hearing the beat of the people all the way down state in Menard, and he just kind of went from a speech into like almost a song. And, uh, it was just the people were all on their feet, and, and just rising as one in kind of the this, uh, you know, unity with him and, and what he stood for. And, obviously that had a very large effect on me. I didn't meet him then. I met him a month or two later. Um, I organized, or people at Northwestern Law School where I was and I organized, uh, him to come to speak at the Law School. And I went out to pick him up. And I thought that, you know, that, uh, Panthers, maybe there'd be a few people there at the, the Law School. Um, picked him up, and this was a month or two before he was assassinated, and at that time my perspective was, wow, this man's paranoid. Because he kept talking about the police were going to get him, and, and talked about the FBI, and he just talked about, uh, it was just on his mind. And, not really comprehending what he was going through, uh, and what in fact was really the, the program, it seemed a little bit extreme to me at the time. In any event, we head back to Northwestern and we walked into the hall there, and I expected to see 25 people and there were 350 people sitting out there waiting to hear from Fred Hampton. These are law students, predominantly White, upper class place. And I was to introduce him, and it was about my first public speaking, uh, event. And, uh, I stammered my way through, and got him up there, and, uh, and then he spoke, and he made some comment about, a very light but pointed comment about how I was a bit tongue-tied. And I've never forgotten that to this day! But he was just so impressive. And, I, I think probably I was a good comparative point to him! Ah, and he just talked to these law students, and, uh, uh, for however long it was. And it was, again, very impressive, and just what kind of a leader he was, and how he was able to move people, and to communicate with people was remarkable. And I mean I wasn't very sophisticated, either politically or legally or anything else at that point. But I knew what was happening. I had a sense of what kind of a man he was, and just, you know, 20, 21 years old. So that's how I both came in contact with him, and how I, uh, first time I met him.
Now I want to focus on December 4, and where you were when you got the news about what had happened at Monroe Street and what you did that day.
Well, um, I was at home in bed. It was, uh, early in the morning and we got a call, probably from Skip. I don't remember now exactly who called, but, Bob Rush had called Skip and said, "The Chairman had been murdered." And it probably was a direct quote. So they, we were gathering together all the people who worked at the office to go down to the apartment. And by some, uh, I guess you could look on it--look at it almost as a miracle in point of history. Ah, the police had left the apartment open. They were afraid, uh, of what the community would do if in fact they knew what they had done in that apartment. And they were also very arrogant. I think they thought they could do whatever they wanted to, and get away with it as far as public opinion went. So, they didn't seal the apartment. They, they, they grabbed whatever evidence they thought they could use, and they ran back to the State's Attorney's Office, and had a press conference to talk about how the vicious Panthers had attacked them, and how they'd had to kill the Chairman in this, in this real dog fight or, uh, shoot-out. But the miracle in a sense was that they left it open so that we could go there. And, we went there. We all mobilized there early in the morning, and we went into the apartment. And we had the presence of mind, I didn't but the people who organized it with me did, uh, to get a cameraman down there. To get someone with a 16 mm camera, who in fact has made some of the footage, uh, made, made the wonderful movie, "The Murder of Fred Hampton" from some of the footage that he took that day. And we started to take the evidence. And we started to take every--we didn't know what significance what had. So we took everything. We took every bullet and there was every shell, and there were shells all over the place. There was, uh, you've got to picture this apartment, it's, it's--
Why don't you start and talk about walking in, and describe for me what you saw.
Well, when I walked in, it was, it's this tiny little ghetto apartment. Probably the entire apartment could be put in the front room of a lot of houses. And when I walked in, uh, there was blood, there was, it was like a Swiss cheese type of effect, because they had ripped the apartment open with these, uh, sub-machine gun and automatic weapons. So the walls were stitched with bullet holes. So when you first came in, you saw this one wall, uh, which is the back living room wall there, uh, and it had all these bullet holes along it. And as you went into the apartment, and you went towards the back, then you saw, there was this door. There was this door laying, in, in the, uh, little hallway. Ah, I think they had it up to, to stop rats or something. It--and, uh, the back bedroom of course was Chairman Fred's and Deborah's. And so this was, door was right out in front of that bedroom. And at some point, I think Skip picked up that door, and there was blood all underneath it. And that is where the Chairman died. And that's where they had dragged him out to after they killed him in the room. So there was blood all over the place and there was paint all over the floor, too, because there were some paint cans. And when they shot the place up, they also punctured all, all the, all the paint cans. And, a lot of it is a blur in my mind now. There are just, you know, it was so intense what was happening, what we were doing. Ah, there was, uh, people had gone to, to talk to the Panthers in jail, because they had taken the ones who had survived to jail. And one of them had said, "Bobby Rush is next. They're going to come back to the apartment." Rush had been, uh, not there that night. So they hadn't gotten him. Um, so we were working with one eye over our shoulder, thinking the police were going to come back and, uh, get us some kind of way. On the other hand we had developed what I can only picture as some kind of, uh, underground railroad type of thing in taking the evidence. We had gotten in touch with, uh, some sympathetic ministers. And they had set up this secret place in the attic of somebody's apartment, I think maybe his own apartment.
Can you recall now how you organized after learning that Fred had been murdered. And what you went down to that apartment to do. What happened?
Well, as I was saying, um, we were collecting the evidence and just the, the emotional effect of being in there, and what had happened, and, uh, what could happen to us, actually, uh, or what we thought could happen, was just something that really was, was, I think about it more now than than. I mean, it was something that we were doing then, under that kind of pressure. Um, and, uh, but you got into kind of a groove of doing it, and, uh, I remember at one point the, uh, I had stepped in some liquid on my shoe. And, uh, there was two possibilities. It could be paint, or it could be blood. And, uh, I remember looking and being somewhat relieved that in fact it was blood rather than paint, because it wouldn't, and I don't know why, but that sticks in my mind. It just kind of sh--makes me, uh, realize what kind of pressure was down there. But what really snapped me back to what we were doing at one point was we went into the bedroom when we were taking evidence in the bedroom where Fred was murdered, and, uh, we went under the bed, and we found a high heel. And the high heel was full of blood. And in the blood was a bullet. So we took it out, and there was a high-heeled shoe c--full of coagulated blood, with a bullet sitting in the middle.
I want you to tell the story again, try to
Um, there was, there were several points where, where, um, uh, what was happening really, uh, came back to me. And, uh, one point I really remember was, uh, when we went into the Chairman's room, uh, at one point or another to take evidence, and we went under the bed. And we found a high-heeled shoe under the bed. And in that shoe was blood. It was up, filled to the top with blood. And in the middle of the shoe was a bullet. And, uh, that just really then, the symbolism of that was just so heavy. I mean, just whatever, uh, groove you were into in, in the job you were doing, and forgetting about really what the job was or what it meant, just getting it done. It was cold, it was probably 15 degrees and we were bundled up. There was no real heat in the place. Ah, at some point along the way, I'm not sure it was the first night, the Panther's had organized people to come in from the community and over the next week or ten days, maybe ten thousand people went through that apartment, from all over Chicago, but primarily from the Black community to see what had happened. Ah, one thing that happened in the first day or two, which, uh, was very significant, that we saw happen there in the apartment was that the press at the beginning had taken Hanrahan's line, "This was a shoot-out. 200 shots were fired. The Panther's fired half of them." Nobody was really challenging that, except a young Sun-Times reporter by the name of Brian Boyer who went down there. And he saw the evidence, and it didn't take a genius to look at what at ha--what was there and see that all the bullets were going in one direction, and all those bullet holes were pointing towards Fred Hampton's bedroom. And that middle bedroom where, where Verlena and Doc Satchel and everyone was**. And, uh, so he'd written something about it. And they buried it on page 43 of the Sun-Times. And, so he quit. He, he quit, and caused the editor of the Sun-Times to come down there with his girl-friend. I think Jim Hogue I think was his name. Marshall Field owned the Sun-Times at that time, and he forced them to come down. And I remember them and they're very well dressed, coming through that apartment, looking at the evidence. Looking at what was there. And from that point forward, there was a turn in the press.
Are there other recollections you might have of the apartment that morning?
Well, there were two other very significant pieces of evidence that we had to deal with. One was the bed on which Fred was murdered. And of course Hanrahan had a story that he was up and firing away at, uh, at the police in the back part of the apartment. Well, the bed, uh, that he was sleeping on had blood all over it. At the head, and at other places, so obviously that totally disproved the theory that Fred was up, about and firing away, but rather that he was murdered in his bed, which was what our people said. So we took the mattress, and we hid it. And we brought it back every day, so that people who came through the apartment could see it on the tours. So that it could be shown, and, and people could be shown the bed on which Fred was murdered, and here's how it proves that he's lying about Fred being involved in this serious shoot-out. The other thing was the door, because the front door panel, they claimed that only one shot--that the Panthers had fired a shot through the door. But as we got there, we saw that there were two bullet holes in the door. So we took the panel out of the door, took pictures, so that it proved that the panel, that was the panel out of the door, and then took that to have it tested. To have, to have the, the, the door tested by a ballistics expert, uh, in order to determine who fired those shots, and what direction they were going. So those were two very important pieces of evidence that we dealt with. And the tours were amazing in themselves. Because here we are, and we'd spent a better part of a week, I think that the police waited until the 17th of December to actually seal that apartment. So it was open for almost two weeks. And we spent a better part of those two weeks getting that evidence out of there. And the Panthers spent a better part of two weeks taking people who wanted to see the place through there. And so we would be talking to people when they went through, and so while we were working, there'd be people walking through constantly. And I'll never forget, I don't know what day it was or what, but I just remember some older Black woman coming through there, shaking her head and going, "It's nothing but a Northern lynching."** And that really stuck in my mind, and, uh, that just really kind of put it in perspective of what really went on in, in that apartment. Um--
Now, in the immediate wake of the raid, Hanrahan starts putting out his story, and it really turns into something of a media war. What are your recollections of that struggle?
Well, I, the, the two major papers, uh, were the Sun-Times and The Tribune. And they each had other, one other that I think were owned. There was The Chicago Today that was owned by The Tribune, and there was The Daily News, which was the afternoon paper for the Sun-Times. And they both, as I said, started out, uh, covering it the way, you know, the company line from Hanrahan. After Brian Boyer and the, uh, editor of the Sun-Times went down there, then the Sun-Times started to, and The Daily News started to look at it a little bit. And The Tribune continued to be Hanrahan's voice. So within days, Hanrahan, uh, set up a phony exclusive, at which time he went to The Tribune and told them, gave them the police officer's version of, of the raid. And it was of course banner headlines, "Exclusive, police tell about shoot-out". Ah, and, but he made the mistake again of taking some pictures. And on the front page of The Tribune it said, "Here's the evidence of how the Panthers fired all these shots." And it was one picture that showed a bunch of bullet holes, a series of bullet holes, and said, "That's where the people were firing out of the middle bedroom". And there was a, another door that had some bullet holes supposedly, circled, and it said, "These, this is the evidence of where Fred Hampton was shooting, this is the back door." Well, again, we went and took those pictures, and saw they weren't what they appeared to be. The back door, the circles around the bullet holes, they turned out to be nail heads. We went and we saw that they were nail heads because we had possession of the apartment. As far as the door that the Panthers were really supposedly firing into, that turned out to be the bedroom door, and it was a door that the police had made into Swiss cheese with their machine gun** bullets. So we again got th--I think we got The Sun-Times people back there and showed them. So the next day The Sun-Times then said, "Exclusive", exposed this exclusive for what it was, which was, uh, a pack of lies. And--
Now Hanrahan also went on television.
Describe that for me, and how you felt seeing that broadcast.
Well, I'm not sure when I first saw it, because we were spending 23 hours a day working. I'm sure we heard about it. I don't know if I saw it at the time. But when I did see it, uh--
When you start, just tell me what it was.
When I did see the, the, uh, the "reenactment" was what it was called. He went to the--in the same way he went to The Tribune, he went to the CBS affiliate here, and gave them--
Hanrahan went to the, uh, CBS affiliate here in Chicago a few days after the raid, in the same way he went to The Tribune people, and he set up an exclusive TV re-enactment. And that re-enactment had the police officers with a mock-up of the apartment, uh, re-enacting what they said happened. And they just kind of coldly and methodically went through this, uh, rehearsed version of what they said happened in the, in the apartment. And so it was the TV version of the CB--of the Tribune exclusive. And that was maddening to see as well. And the, we later saw the out-takes and saw that it had to be rehearsed for about six or seven hours before the police officers could get it straight in what their stories were. Ah, but this was Hanrahan's, uh, attack, and at the same time, we were giving, uh, the Panther stories to the press. And so this incredible media, uh, situation was going on here. And, uh, uh, it was just, uh, it was on the front page of the Chica--Chicago papers for literally a month. And, uh, uh, it was just an incredible event. Hanrahan was on his way to being Daley's, uh, uh, replacement as, as Mayor of the city of Chicago. Fred Hampton was a very respected and powerful young militant leader here in Chicago.
I want you to tell me now, in the wake of the events that morning of December 4th, what happened to the survivors and how, how did you begin to see them drawn into the legal process. What was their struggle, what was...?
Well, the survivors were taken right off to jail if they weren't taken to hospital, the hospital and--
Okay, well right after the raid the, the survivors were either taken to the hospital or to jail. Deborah was taken to jail because she wasn't seriously hurt, although she was almost to term with little Fred at that point. Uhm, and uh, Doc Satchel was taken to Cook County Hospital because he had five bullets in his stomach. And, uh, from that point forward they were under siege, they were rather than the victims, they were the people, they were the offenders. They were the ones who, uh, were responsible for all of this. They were the ones who were going to be tried, uh, for attempted murder on these heroic police officers. So that's what they were facing, and they were facing an incredible amount of pressure from the legal system and also, uh, an incredible feeling that they wanted to get the real truth out. But they were under certain constrictions because of the legal case that was hanging over their head, and how they were going to have to deal with, uh, getting the truth out, and dealing with the enormity of the crime. And, and also they lost their leader, and their friend, and their associate, two of them really. But Fred Hampton, of course, was from Chicago, and was the leader here in Chicago. Mark Clark who was also murdered in, in the apartment was from Peoria. Ah, he was a leader in Peoria. There were leaders from around the state in the apartment that evening. Ah, but uh, so they, they, I mean they were 17, 18 years old. Ah, young, young people, people that were all of the sudden confronted with serious physical injuries, with, uh, threat of long terms in prison. And, uh, you know, having been, uh, witness to, an, an, uh, uh, assassination.
What was the way in which the legal process began to unfold. Tell me how the survivors related to the legal hearings that went on. I know at one point they elected to have this inquest of their own. How did that come about?
Well, they were several proceedings that went on, first there was a coroner's inquest. The coroner's inquest was supposedly to determine the cause of death. Ah, there was a lot of evidence that was put on at that inquest, but the, the jury, uh, there was--uh, the outcome was predetermined because it was controlled by the coroner's office. And they just picked 6 cronies, uh, they called it a Blue Ribbon Panel, but nonetheless the, uh, the outcome was going to be justifiable homicide, and that's what it turned out to be. However, there was a lot of uh, cross-examination of witnesses, et cetera that went on. So there was a lot of focus brought on to the case there. Ah, the victims, uh, survivors didn't testify there. Ah, they had there own criminal charges pending against them, uh, and then there was a federal grand jury investigation that was headed up from Washington, by Mitchell, John Mitchell, and, uh, Jerris Leonard, uh, who was the head of the Civil Rights Division under Nixon. Much in the same way as Bradford Reynolds is the head of the Civil Rights Division under Reagan. Someone who was pretty much assigned to dismantle civil rights in the name of civil rights. So he wasn't too sympathetic to, uh, the Panther's cause to say the least. And, uh, so that was, uh, that was caused by the uproar in the Black community in Chicago. They demanded an investigation, they just wouldn't, after seeing what went on, seeing the apartment, uh, just every Black leader from Jesse Jackson to Renault Robinson, uh, were all calling for an independent investigation. And, uh, were, uh, concluding that this was murder and, uh, uh, that something had to be done. So the government responded to that, and it of course was a, a very sophisticated cover up, that, that went on with regard to it. Ah, the out--
What was the outcome of that federal grand jury case and how did it make you feel?
Where did you feel left?
The federal grand jury investigated for 3 or 4 months. It heard a lot of evidence. And there was a decision made by the Panthers and the lawyers that the Panthers should not cooperate with the grand jury because of who was heading it up, where it was coming from, being part of the government apparatus. That everybody felt at that time, uh, strongly felt, was behind the raid. Although at that time there was no real evidence to support the, the, the feeling that the federal government and the FBI and the Justice Department was behind it. So, the Panthers didn't cooperate, they didn't testify, uh, it appeared that nonetheless the government's view was to indict some police officers. Ah, in that way to take care of it. There was a very honest FBI ballistics expert who came to the apartment, and who made the conclusion that over ninety shots were fired by the Pan--excuse me, by the police and at most one was fired by the Panthers.
Do you want to start that again?
Yes, that was a bad slip up, there. There was, the FBI had gotten an honest FB--FBI ballistics expert to come to the apartment and to look at all the ballistics evidence, a man by the name of Zimmers. And he came to the conclusion that only one shot, at most, was fired by the Panthers, and all the rest, about 100, were fired by the, uh, police. And so, from that conclusion, uh, it was hard see, how they shouldn't be indicted for murder and attempted murder and all sorts of various violations. Ah, but somewhere in the middle of this investigation there was a recess, and at that point, uh, all the, there was a big meeting in Washington with, uh, John Mitchell and, uh, all the federal people. And from that point forward, uh, the whole tenor of the investigation changed, and instead of there being any indictments, federal civil rights violations indictments, uh, there was returned a no bill or they never actually even voted on indictments. And that was the decision of the government, instead they issued a report. The report was a classic cover up document, it blamed the Panthers for the lack of indictments because they didn't testify. It talked about how nasty the Panthers were. Then it outlined all of this evidence in support of the fact, uh, that this was nothing but, uh, basically an assassination or slaughter, uh, and yet said there wasn't evidence to indict anybody. The--what really happened, when you look at it is that, Hanrahan who knew and was really keeping the secret of the FBI and the federal involvement in this raid, and setting it up, and all that, had caused them not to indict him by saying, "If you indict me I'm going to blow the whistle on you." So there was a deal that was struck, and then no indictments were ever returned.
How did you feel at the time?
Well, the whole process, at some point you came not to expect anything, in one hand you felt like it was totally unjust, it was, uh, the big lie going on here, the big cover up, that was obvious. But on the other hand you, uh, having been hardened by what had gone on, and when you've seen, what, what, the truth of the matter was and how it was being portrayed and what was going on and who was being prosecuted, and, and how, how people were being treated, you came to almost expect that result, uh, because you, you kind of understood that the government was going to indict themselves. And was not going to, uh, uh, call the shots the way they really happened. So, uh, it was outrage as well, don't get me wrong, it was outrageous what happened, and we all felt outrage. And the community carried that outrage forward, from that point forward, and I think that that outrage and that feeling of injustice, and that feeling that, uh, that you felt, that what Fred Hampton stood, stood for should be carried forward. Was something that drove all of us, and it drove us for the entire 13 years of the case, to, to fight, you know, the entire case out, uh, under the odds that we were dealing with, to get the actual evidence to support what everybody believed. It's also, I think transformed us, uh, myself, I can speak for myself and my, my partners, that kind of transformed us from young, kind of idealistic people who where not sure exactly what we wanted to do. To the kinds of uh, people that were committed to the kind of work, that uh, you know for social change and justice that we've been committed to for the last 20 years. And particularly to be committed to dealing with, with, with exposing the truth about what happened to Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.
I want to go back to one thing that there were lots of allegations about, that whether or not Fred was drugged.
What were the things that were coming out? How did you first learn about the possibilities? What did you do? What do you think?
Well, it was always curious to us, uh, maybe that's not the correct adjective, but that Fred who was a strong man, who, when he preached something he didn't run and hide from it. And, uh, the Panthers preached self-defense, the police come to your apartment, get your gun and defend yourself. So it was, it was curious to us, or didn't make sense, that Fred would have been killed in his bed. Ah, he would have defended himself, but all the evidence showed he didn't, uh, so one question became was there some kind of drugging. So when we had an independent autopsy done, on, on Fred's body, because the official autopsy was, was a cover up. Ah, a tox--toxicological report was done by the head toxicolo--toxicology at Cook County Hospital, and she came back with, uh, what first shocked us, that, that Fred had a large amount of secobarbitol, or a downer, in his system, at the time he was killed. And then, knowing that Fred never used drugs, there was no question about that, I think friend and foe alike would never, accused him of being any kind of drug user. It became obvious that if this toxicological report was accurate and she was independent, she had, she was, had no reason to, to, uh--
Out of film!
Okay, what did you think about this very peculiar evidence of how--
--how Fred behaved, of whether or not , okay, still rolling, okay--
Okay, well it seemed from the beginning very strange to us that, that Fred had been killed in his bed because Fred, uh, was a very active person, uh, he practiced what he preached, and what the Panthers preached and what he pre--preached was to defend yourself. The police came to your apartment, you defended yourself. They had guns in the apartment and we could never quite understand, and the Panthers couldn't never quite understand why he would have been assassinated in his bed. And hadn't defended himself. But then it started to become clearer, a little later on when an independent autopsy was performed, and this independent autopsy also had a toxicological exam done on the blood. And the, it was done at Cook County Hospital by the head of tox--toxicology, and she came back with the findings that there was a large amount of secobarbitol in Fred's system at the time he was killed. Everybody knew that Fred wasn't a drug user, he didn't touch drugs, and uh, that was uniformly understood, so then it became a question of how these drugs got in his system. That came to the question of William O'Neal ultimately, although at the time it was, it must have been an informant, everybody knew that there were informants in the party, and knew that there was, and to quote people, "That someone had dropped a dime on the apartment." And so that person who had dropped a dime, or who had informed on the apartment it was assumed also had been involved in drugging Fred Hampton. Later it was learned that O'Neal was involved, uh, with getting food for Fred earlier in the evening. And so there were a lot of questions about whether O'Neal had been involved in, in putting the drugs in Fred's system. Ah, there were two other toxicological reports done, uh, by the federal government, and one done I believe by the county. Neither of which found the, the drugs. And so its always been a battle, a legal battle and just a, a factual battle of whose toxicological report is right. Ah, but whether, uh, the, the, uh, the other people of course had a reason to find what they found. Ah, particularly the federal government, uh, so it's a very big question mark in the case, uh, and in, in, in the assassination. That to assure that they could kill Hampton, did they drug him? And there is strong evidence to suggest that, when it first came out it was shocking. Ah, I remember there was a press conference that we had with the, uh, pathologist, the independent pathologist. And when we released the, uh, results of the toxicological report, and, uh, it's, it's a very troubling, even to this day, question in, in the case.
You've mentioned O'Neal, what, what are your recollections about him and how people were dealing with him at the time? Just how active and involved was he with the Panthers, and what he might have been able to inform on.
Well he was very involved with the Panthers--
Oh, O'Neal was ve--obviously very involved with the Panthers, he was chief of security, he was, uh, involved in, uh, being Fred Hampton's bodyguard for awhile. Ah, he seemed to always be around when things were happening, and, uh, I keep wanting to go into the floor plan. I don't know if I can handle him without getting into that.
Talk a little bit around it.
Um, and, uh, um, he was also our client, as a Panther he was a client of our office. So, we--
Can you start that and say O'Neal.
O'Neal was also a client of our office from early in '69, uh, he was represented by some of my partners, particularly Dennis Cunningham. And so O'Neal was not only around the Panthers, and important in the Panthers, but he was, seemed to be around all the cases, and all, all the defense people. And he would be around the lawyers, and that kind of thing. Perfect position for someone who was an informant or a provocateur. Ah, most of his pro--provocateurism we heard second hand, but nonetheless we heard about it. And there were always rumors and feelings that he was an informant, that he wasn't, uh, playing with a full deck. But there was never enough, I think, for either the lawyers or the Panthers to, uh, decide, uh, that he should be, uh, expelled from the party and kept from coming around. So he continued to be around and be involved and be able to have, be in a position where he could do the kinds of things that, uh, he was being ordered to do under the COINTELPRO Program.
Okay, cut. I've covered--