Chas. Garry, Attorney for the Black Panthers

From Associated Press

Attorney Charles Garry, a self-described courtroom "street fighter" whose clients included the Black Panther Party and the People's Temple, died Friday. He was 82.

Garry died shortly before 5 p.m. at Alta Bates-Herrick Hospital, where he had been in critical condition after suffering a stroke on Sunday.

The cause of death was a massive intercerebral hemorrhage, hospital spokeswoman Carolyn Kemp said.

Garry was born Garabed Garabedian to immigrant Armenian parents in Bridgewater, Mass., on March 17, 1909. The family moved to Selma, in California's rural Central Valley, when he was a child.

Garry once told an interviewer that many of his ideas were fashioned by the treatment he received in the California farming country, a place of deep prejudices as described in some of John Steinbeck's works.

"I guess one of the things that makes me so incensed about what's happening to black people is because I relate it to my early life and the discrimination I received by just being an ethnic Armenian," Garry said. He added that in elementary school he had a fight "every single night" because of one remark or another made over his heritage.

In the 1960s, Garry defended members of the Black Panther Party on charges ranging from assault to murder.

He represented Panther Bobby Seale during the Chicago 7 trial of political activists accused of plotting disruptions at the Democratic National Convention. The judge ordered the outspoken Seale shackled to a chair, a picture that received front-page display. During the same period, Garry defended protesters against the war in Vietnam.

A decade later, he represented the Rev. Jim Jones and People's Temple and was present when Rep. Leo Ryan (D-Calif.) was shot to death in 1978 in Guyana while investigating reports of cruelty at the cult's jungle compound.

Garry escaped through the jungle while Jones persuaded hundreds of cult members to follow him in suicide by drinking poison.

"I saw no evidence of what was to come," Garry said of the deaths of 900 people.

He said the jungle settlement appeared to be "paradise."

"For the first time, I saw a world where there was no racism, sexism, ageism, elitism, no poverty," he said. "I'm certain now that a lot of things I saw when I first went down were propped up."

In his autobiography, "Streetfighter in the Courtroom," Garry wrote: "When we have an equitable distribution of the wealth, and when racism and discrimination are unknown, then maybe we can start to talk about 'Justice.' "

The attorney was well known even before his association with the Panthers and the People's Temple.

In 1957, Garry was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and cited the 5th Amendment when he refused to testify.

"I don't belong to any organized Marxist party," he said later. "I adhere towards the means of production to be in the hands of the people."

Garry, who was admitted to the bar in 1932, was in the Army during World War II and saw service in Europe.

He is survived by his wife, Louise, whom he married in 1932.

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