Alan Berg was killed because he was a Jew and a radio personality, a U.S. district court jury decided Tuesday in convicting two white supremacists of civil rights violations in the murder of Berg, a Denver radio talk-show host.
The jury, having deliberated for 10 hours over two days, convicted Bruce Pierce and David Lane. Acquitted of the charges were Richard Scutari and Jean Craig, as the jury apparently heard no evidence clearly linking them to the crime.
All four are former members of the white supremacists group known variously as the Silent Brotherhood or The Order.
Prosecutors had contended throughout the trial that Pierce was the triggerman in the June 1984 murder and that Lane drove the getaway car. Scutari’s role was never clearly established during the trial. Craig had been accused of trailing Berg for the group in the weeks before the shooting.
The 12 jurors began deliberation Monday in the unexpectedly rapid trial. They examined a complex set of legal conditions to determine whether the defendants deprived Berg of his civil rights in the slaying which, under federal law, must include not only the act of murder but the intent to kill Berg because of his Jewish religion, and the fact that the murder prevented his exercise of free speech.
The prosecution, which relied largely upon the testimony of other Brotherhood members, tried to prove that the four’s actions were part of a conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government through counterfeiting, robbery and assassination of prominent American Jewish figures.
Defense attorneys pointed to inconsistencies in testimony from a number of government witnesses and cast doubt on the witnesses’ credibility since several gained lighter sentences from earlier racketeering convictions in exchange for their testimony in this trial.
They also argued that Berg could not be considered Jewish in the context of this trial since, even though born of Jewish parents, he was not a practicing Jew and had claimed on the air to have had doubts about the existence of a god.
Prosecutors countered that Silent Brotherhood members, however, used their perception of Berg as a Jew as a primary motive for their crime.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.