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|By Patrick Hooty Croy|
"I am Norma Jean's brother Patrick Hooty Croy. I was convicted at the same time as my sister. I was sent to death row where I spent many years awaiting execution. In my retrial it was proven that I shot Officer Bo Hittson in self-defense. This acquittal has clearly exonerated my sister. The prison parole board refuses to recognize any evidence surrounding the acquittal. Norma Jean is the only one still doing time."
July 16, 1978: It was high summer in Yreka, California and the town was celebrating the weekend with a street fair and dance. Norma Jean Croy was 24. Along with some friends and relatives, this Native Shasta woman was also enjoying the weekend. Visiting from home to home, laughing, watching movies, relaxing on the hot summer night. They decided it would be good to go get pufitchnight at her Grandma's place out in the country. First off, they needed some food and cigarettes at a local all-night store. It was near midnight.
The clerk at the convenience store was working the night shift, hoping his application at the police department would be approved soon. It was hot that night, maybe too hot. When Norma Jean, her brother Patrick Hooty Croy and three of their relatives (ages 17- 26) stopped at the store the clerk became verbally abusive, mistakenly accusing Hooty of short-changing him.
Norma and 18-year-old Carol Thom defended Hooty against the verbal onslaught. Hooty did not want any trouble, he left the store. The clerk became physically and verbally abusive with Norma Jean and Carol. A scuffle broke out. A squad car rolled into the parking lot. One of those coincidences. The clerk yelled "Get them", and then came the chase.
"There's a carload of Indians," the police radio barked across Siskiyou County. One cousin, Darrell, just waking up in the back seat had the bright idea that he'd shoot out the headlights of the pursuing squad car. He picked up the .22 rifle as Hooty drove the old Pontiac. By the time they reached Grandma's, Darrell had managed to fire one bullet. He hadn't even hit the squad car, much less his target.
When the got to Grandma's, Norma Jean, Hooty and Darrell fled into the hills. The other two, Carol and 17-year-old Jasper (who had been asleep until arrival at Grandma's) attempted to turn themselves in to the police. The police responded by beating Jasper and handcuffing him and Carol in the line of fire.
Fifteen squad cars and 27 officers came to the scene. The police had military style semi-automatic weapons: M-16's, AR-15's, "riot shotguns", and .357 magnum pistols, shooting at "ANYTHING that moved". The Indians had one .22 caliber rifle and a handful of bullets. Memories of Captain Jack and the Modoc nation standoff against the US Cavalry whispered in the air.
Norma Jean, Hooty and Darrell continued to try and find cover in the sagebrush. Norma Jean got hit first, shot in the back. An officer was hit in the hand. Trying to surrender, Darrell was shot in the groin.
During a de facto cease-fire, Hooty approached the cabin to check on his Grandmother and Aunt. There was a death. Yreka police officer Bo Hittson, who had been drinking prior to arriving on the scene saw Hooty attempting to get into the window of the cabin. One bullet hit Hooty in the lower butt and traveled down his leg, where it remains to this day. The other bullet entered through the back of his upper arm, bursting out the front. Hooty turned and shot-- one bullet from the .22 which hit the officer in the heart. The officer died instantly.
Hooty crawled to some storage shacks by the cabin, seeking shelter. Several police officers opened fire with semi-automatic weapons. Twice they spewed the bullets into the area where Hooty lay bleeding. By some miracle, Hooty survived. By dawn the dust cleared. The police had fired an excess of 200 rounds into the area. Only 6 .22 shots had been fired by the Indians.
Hospitals...Jail time...Trials. Penitentiaries. Jasper (a juvenile who ended up in adult court), got six years. Carol Thom was turned over to the California Youth Authority and separated from her baby daughter for 3 years. Darrell got 6 years. Norma Jean got life. Hooty got the death penalty.
That was a long time ago. Today, all the Indians except for Norma Jean are out of prison. Hooty, in 1985, was granted a new trial by the California Supreme Court, and was found NOT GUILTY by reason of self-defense in May of 1990. With no release date, Norma Jean has been in prison for 12 years. [pg: at the time this was written. It's 17 years now.]
A victim of gross miscarriage of justice, Norma Jean, unarmed in the racially-charged encounter, is still behind bars.Here's what Hooty's (second) trial judge said:
"I think that when Norma Jean comes up for a parole hearing again, that the board should take into consideration the fact that this court, at least, believes Normal Jean Croy would have been found Not Guilty....I want the record to be clear that this is my judgement, my opinion, having heard the evidence in this case." -- Judge Edward Stern, Hooty's trial judge, San Francisco, May, 1990
But when Norma Jean went before her parole board, they refused to consider the evidence which had come out at the new trial, or the trial judge's opinion. She was given no release date then, told to return in several years for another hearing. She was denied release date in 1992, 1993, 1994. Should have another hearing in 1995, but her attorney believes prison crowding will delay it till Spring, 1996. Also believes no release will be set then. See DEFENSE COMMITTEE NEWS page.
Norma Jean and Hooty were both convicted in Placer County by an all-white jury of first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, assault on officers, and robbery in August of 1979. Norma Jean was sentenced to life, on some of the charges, long terms on others. Hooty received the death penalty. Their appeals went to different courts with different results. Hooty was granted a new trial at the end of 1985, Norma Jean's convictions were affirmed by a lower appeals court. Hooty's change of venue was considered a landmark case; Norma Jean's venue change was denied.
At Hooty's second trial, in San Francisco, evidence was presented which the 1979 jury had not heard on a dual system of justice for Indians, a background of racism in the community where the incidents occurred, misconduct by law enforcement officers, and most importantly, that Hooty had shot officer Hittson in self- defense. Hooty was found not guilty of all charges, murder, attempted murder and robbery.
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CREDITS: The story above was written collectively--put together over several years--by Nilak Butler, Patrick Hooty Croy (Norma Jean's brother), Diana Samuelson, Bia D'OCampo, Denise Ferry and attorney Kevin McKiernan. The drawing is by Patrick Hooty Croy. It represents his sister and what now that she is in her 40's, still imprisoned, must symbolize her spirit-children, since she will probably have none of her own.
The story was published in the first issue (Spring, 1991) of Indigenous Woman, magazine of the International Indigenous Women's Network, IWN, P.O. Box 174, Lake Elmo, MN 55402, and is reprinted here by permission.
Norma Jean's lawyer Diana Samuelson (and defense committee) phone number in San Francisco is:
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 19, 1995 - 12:20:56 AM