In the hallway outside U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene's courtroom, the talk turned to medicine men, ESP, tradition and revenge.
Three Navajos, all related in some way to one of the slain tribal policemen, were hobnobbing with reporters during the third day of jury deliberations.Ben Atene Jr., Thomas Cly and Vinton Bedoni are accused of the first-degree murder of police officers Roy Lee Stanley and Andy Begay, shot and burned to death the night of Dec. 4-5, 1987. As of Tuesday morning, the jury had not yet returned a verdict.
The jurors' long debate was making the waiting relatives fearful of a hung jury or even acquittal.
A reporter asked Marie Holiday, Stanley's sister, what would happen if the accused were found not guilty and released. Threats had been made against the defendants' lives, the reporter said.
Would the Stanley family participate in revenge? "To feel hatred is not in my heart," she replied. But she said she was fearful of a ruling that would be "the biggest mistake in Navajo history."
Holiday, a student at the University of Utah, added, "When they (jurors) come out, no matter what the decision they make, there will be no satisfaction to me. I will never get my brother back." She said she hopes justice is done.
She said that the night of the killings, Stanley's wife, Mary Lou, was nervous because Roy Lee was supposed to get off his shift at 11 p.m. and return to their home at Oljato, San Juan County. Because he didn't arrive, she kept waking up every hour.
About 3 a.m. their 21/2-year-old son, Royal, woke up crying. He wailed and wailed, unable to be comforted.
"He kept saying - his eyes were really wide - and he kept saying, esaya, esaya (I'm afraid, I'm afraid)."
Later the family learned that was just about the time Stanley was burning to death in one of the officers' police vans in Copper Canyon. He was killed by the fire after he was shot.
Another relative, who asked not to be identified, said that two days later somebody asked the little fellow, "Where's your Dad?"
The boy pointed his hand like a gun, making shooting noises. "A man did it; he died," Royal said. According to the relative, nobody had told him that his father had been shot.
According to Holiday, stories circulating around the reservation say Hite Chee, a medicine man, presided in a ceremony of some kind for three men who were thought to be suspects in the killings; one of these, Marques Atene, was cleared during the trial when the government admitted it could not prove a case against him.
Rumors say that five other medicine men were consulted before Chee agreed to perform the ceremony. Also, some say the ceremony was intended "to stop the FBI right in their tracks, so the investigation doesn't go any further."
During the trial, witnesses denied that defendants or their relatives were looking for a medicine man to perform some kind of a ceremony after the shootings.
According to the rumors, a woman who was disturbed about the murders happened to go to Hite Chee's home to consult him. She saw the medicine man leaving his hogan, or traditional octagonal home, followed by three who were believed to be suspects.
Next, they say, Chee told someone that he did not know if he could live long enough to be forgiven for what he had done.
According to this story, Chee himself then went to another medicine man. When this practitioner held a ceremony for Chee, the stories add, Hite Chee dropped dead.
Stanley's relatives think Chee probably died of a heart attack.
FBI Special Agent Timothy J. Healy testified in the trial that a Navajo named Julius Crank told him "there was a ceremony to block the investigation and that it was very strong, and it caused one of the medicine men to die."
Talk in the hallway shifted to the changes that are wiping out the traditional way of life for many on the giant reservation, which sprawls through desert regions of the Four Corners states.
"It used to be that the father used to go out early in the morning from his hogan, and he would sing," said Bill Stanley, a biology student at the U., and Roy Lee Stanley's brother. The ceremony varied somewhat from area to area, he said.
Children would be told to run wherever they had to go - to visit, to herd sheep, to jobs. They would run for miles, feeling a closeness to the land and their traditions.
People were disciplined to live within traditions, which had value for them.
"Electricity, gas came in, and then the hogan disappeared. The automobile came in and there was no need for the children to go out and run, they could get to where they were working very easily in their trucks."