Nevada Appeal at 150: March 21, 1976: Hearst jury: guilty

Hearst jury: guilty

Patricia Hearst was found guilty of armed bank robbery by a jury which quickly rejected her story that she was forced into a holdup by death threats and mistreatment at the hands of the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Hearst, who had entered the courtroom smiling before the verdict was announced, blanched and a painful expression crossed her face as the clerk read the verdict to a tension-filled courtroom. The 22-year-old newspaper heiress swallowed hard, and chief defense attorney F. Lee Bailey put his arm around her to console her.

“Oh, Christ,” said her father, Randolph A. Hearst. Her mother, Mrs. Catherine Hearst, burst into tears and was escorted out of the courtroom.

Hearst faces a maximum of 25 years in prison on the bank robbery conviction, and an additional 10 years in prison on a second conviction for using a firearms in commission of a felony. The minimum penalty is probation.

Hearst must now face more charges in Los Angeles in connection with the Mel’s Sporting Goods incident in which she sprayed a building with bullets to cover the escape of SLA members William and Emily Harris after an attempt at shoplifting, then stole four vehicles and kidnapped two men in the next 24 hours.

The jury’s unexpectedly sudden verdict came after more than a million words of testimony, 66 witnesses and 295 government exhibits. The jury did not ask to review any of the testimony during its deliberations.

During the celebrated trial, Bailey sought to portray Hearst as the innocent and terrorized victim of a small band of crazy revolutionaries who brutalized her and raped her until she felt she had no alternative but to submit to their demands and pretend to join them.

The prosecution said films and eyewitness accounts of the April 15, 1974, robbery of a Hibernia Bank branch in San Francisco showed that Hearst played an active role in the holdup. It also produced evidence of her subsequent behavior in which she bragged about her part.

This continues the Appeal’s review of news stories and headlines during its Sesquicentennial year.


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