SANTA ANA, California – A defense attorney urged jurors Wednesday to reject the accusations of a "parade of perjurers" who were promised money and reduced prison sentences for testimony against four alleged ringleaders of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang.
"The government is asking you to place your trust in these thieves and liars to get a conviction," lawyer Mark Fleming said during his closing argument in the federal racketeering trial.
"They aren't worthy of your belief. It's insulting," he said.
Fleming represents Barry "The Baron" Mills. Also on trial are Tyler "The Hulk" Bingham, Edgar "The Snail" Hevle and Christopher Overton Gibson.
The inmates are implicated in many of the 32 murders and attempted murders detailed in a federal indictment against the white supremacist gang that was founded in 1964 at California's San Quentin prison.
The trial is part of what is believed to be one of the largest death penalty cases in U.S. history. Of the 40 people originally arrested, up to 16, including Mills and Bingham, could face the death penalty.
Prosecutors claim the attacks were planned and carried out to help the gang keep control of drug dealing and other criminal enterprises in some of the nation's toughest prisons.
During the trial, which began four months ago, prosecutors presented testimony from convicted killers, former gang members and jailhouse informants about the violent tactics of the gang.
Jurors heard accounts of dozens of murders and attempted murders, including one in which the attacker licked the dead man's blood from his hands while laughing hysterically.
Mills and Bingham are accused of ordering a race war against the DC Blacks prison gang that resulted in the deaths of two black gang members during a 1997 riot at a prison in Lewisburg, Pa.
Closing arguments by defense attorneys are expected to last about two days. They maintained during the trial that their clients were forced to join the gang simply to survive in the tough prison environment.
Prosecutor Terri Flynn on Tuesday showed jurors written messages from gang members and photos of people they contend were killed at the behest of gang leaders.
Flynn spent several hours detailing five killings and an attempted slaying the government claims were orchestrated by the Aryan Brotherhood. She referred to handwritten notes and testimony by gang members and others as proof that the defendants plotted to kill those who crossed the gang.
Flynn said the gang recruited the most violent inmates at high-security prisons, people she said would protect the Aryan Brotherhood at any cost.