Then in 2002 the U.S attorney in Los Angeles named Robert in a federal racketeering indictment against the Aryan Brotherhood, or the Brand, depicting it as a tightly run organization that used violence to control gambling, extortion and drug trafficking in prisons throughout the nation.
But the federal prosecutors said Robert had been quietly running a sophisticated criminal syndicate from his cell. Among a litany of brutal crimes, they accused him of ordering five prison murders and the killing of a snitch's innocent father. Robert and 22 other defendants faced the death penalty.
At the first trial, held in Santa Ana, four Aryan Brotherhood heavies in the federal prison system were convicted but spared the death penalty. In the next round, prosecutors took death off the table. Robert Griffin and his co-defendant, John Stinson, now faced life without parole if convicted.
Assistant U.S. Atty. J. Mark Childs took the lectern to give his opening statement.
"In December of 1983, Steven Barnes, a former member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, took the witness stand in a courtroom located in San Bernardino County and testified against defendant Robert Lee Griffin, who was a leading member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, and who was on trial for murder."
Childs, 40, spoke in a plain, deferential tone.
"A few months after Steven Barnes testified against defendant Griffin, a man by the name of Curtis Price, who was an Aryan Brotherhood member, went to the home of the father of Steven Barnes."
"Curtis Price went into a bedroom, put a pistol to the back of Richard Barnes' skull and pulled the trigger three times."
Pam took notes to keep her emotions tamped down. She had known what the prosecutors planned to say, but it was still painful to hear.
Childs called Robert Griffin "one of the most powerful members of the Aryan Brotherhood in its entire history."
Robert sat in his preppy clothes taking notes as jurors looked at photos on a screen above him. They saw a grainy image of him bulked up and covered in tattoos. They saw Barnes' body lying on his bed in his cowboy boots, the splatter of the killing all over the checkered bedspread. They saw a dead Stephen Clark, his face slick with clots of blackened blood, his neck slit open. They saw the far-off gaze that settled into Arthur Ruffo's face as he was silently strangled in his cell.
Griffin and Stinson were accused of secretly orchestrating or approving these murders.
Robert's court-appointed attorney, Michael Crain, called the case an elaborate concoction.
"Back in 1970, for those of you who remember, it was a time when our society was in turmoil," Crain told the jury, with a casual hint of Texas in his voice. "And prison at that time, there was a lot of violence. It was a dangerous place. You had to survive on your own.
"Inmates of various races and ethnicities banded together for protection from other races and ethnicities. . . . That's the prison system Robert Griffin entered as a young man of 21."
Crain told the jurors that Robert built a tough reputation -- with the moniker "Blinky" -- that now held him captive.
He knew prosecutors had to prove not only that Robert had orchestrated gruesome crimes but also that he was still part of the conspiracy as recently as August 1997. Under the statute of limitations, his earlier crimes wouldn't matter if he was out of the gang by then.
"The evidence in this case is going to show you that Mr. Griffin, for over 20 years, has not received a single disciplinary write-up in the Department of Corrections," Crain said. "And this is essentially unheard of."