Attorneys for three men accused of killing a San Francisco police sergeant 37 years ago argued for hours Thursday to have conspiracy charges against their clients dismissed.
The men are accused in the slaying of Sgt. John V. Young, 51, who was shot to death while working behind the reception desk of the Ingleside Police Station on Aug. 29, 1971. If the conspiracy charges are dropped, the door is open for defense attorneys to split up the defendants into different murder trials.
Thursday’s courtroom was packed with supporters wearing “FREE the SF 8” buttons — a reference to the number of men originally arrested — although now there are seven since San Francisco resident Richard O’Neal had the only count against him, a charge of conspiracy, dropped in January.
Of the remaining men, only Herman Bell and Anthony Bottom remain in custody, as they are serving life terms for killing two police officers in New York in the same year Young was killed. The third defendant charged with conspiracy is Francisco Torres.
On Thursday, lawyers insisted that the state’s previous three-year statute of limitations on conspiracy charges has expired.
Prosecutors argued that state legislators never meant a conspiracy charge to expire when it is associated with murder, “one of the most serious and heinous crimes a man can commit.”
The remaining four defendants who are out on bail and havebeen cleared of conspiracy charges, appeared in court Thursday, talking with supporters outside the courtroom. Judge Philip Moscone is expected to issue a written ruling in days.