, 103min, OF
On the night of August 1, 1942, zoot suiter Henry Leyvas, 20, and some of his friends were involved in a fight with anohter group of pachucos at the Willliams Ranch by a lagoon. Later the next morning, a man named José Diaz was found bleeding and unconscious on a road near the lagoon. He later died. The autopsy revealed that Mr. Diaz was drunk at the time of death and that his death was the result of blunt head traum. Though one medical examiner started that his injuriers were consitant with that of being hit by a car. Henry Leyvas and 24 members of the '38th Street gang' were arrested and charged with the murder of José Diaz.
The district attorney reasoned, and Judge Fricke agreed, that the jury should see the defendants in the zoot suits, which were obviously only worn by «hoodlums». They were not allowed to sit with or talk with their lawyers. Whenever their names were mentioned by a witness or the District Attorney, the defendants were instructed by the judge to stand up, regardless of how damning the statements being made were. Judge Fricke also had E. Duran Ayres come and testify as an «expert» witness as to his belief of the Mexicans' penchant for killing and their «blood thirst». The trial went on for five months and on January 15, 1943, nine of the co-defendants (including Henry Leyvas) were found guilty of second degree murder, given prison terms of five years to life, and shipped off to the infamous San Quentin Prison. This entire incident is documented in the 1981 movie by Luis Valdez, <i>Zoot Suit</i>.