1969 October 29

Black Panther Bobby Seale Bound and Gagged in Court at Trial of the Chicago 8


Black Panther Party Member Bobby Seale, one of the defendants in the trial of the Chicago 8, was ordered bound and gagged by Judge Julius Hoffman on this day because of his angry outbursts and verbal insults of the judge. In one of the most tumultuous and highly publicized trials of political radicals of the Vietnam War era, the Chicago 8 were charged with conspiracy to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic Party Convention (August 28, 1968).

The trial (September 24, 1969) was marked by numerous confrontations between Judge Hoffman, who displayed hostility to the defendants on many occasions, and the defendants and their lawyers. Seale at one point denounced Hoffman as a “Fascist dog.” Hoffman threatened to cite the defendants for contempt of court when they refused to stand when court recessed as is customary. When the defendants’ lawyers refused to tell them to stand, Judge Hoffman threatened to cite them for contempt.

Despite being gagged, Seale managed to shout through and around the gag. At one point, he slipped free of the leather strap binding his left arm. A near-brawl ensued, involving Seale and federal Marshals.

At the end of the trial, Judge Hoffman convicted all eight of the defendants and cited them and their lawyers for contempt of court (February 15, 1970, February 18, 1970). On appeal, the convictions and the contempt citations were reversed. Hoffman’s evident hostility was one of the reasons for the reversals.

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