LOS ANGELES — In an unusual hearing, a frail elderly woman who witnessed a Sacramento-area bank holdup in 1975 gave testimony Friday for use in the upcoming trial of former SLA fugitive Sara Jane Olson on charges of trying to kill police officers.
Dorothy White, 77, underwent conditional examination in her Sacramento home because she is very ill with heart problems and “may die before this case goes to trial,” Los Angeles County district attorney’s spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said.
The judge in Olson’s case was present as White was questioned by a prosecutor and a defense lawyer. Her deposition will be submitted as evidence at Olson’s much-delayed trial, currently expected to begin on Sept. 24.
Olson, 54, is accused of trying to murder Los Angeles police officers by planting bombs under police cars in 1975 in retaliation for the deaths of six members of the Symbionese Liberation Army in a fiery shootout. The bombs did not explode.
Indicted in 1976 under her former name, Kathleen Soliah, she was a fugitive until her 1999 capture in Minnesota. During those 23 years, she took a new name and was living as a doctor’s wife, mother and active community member. She is free on $1 million bail.
The prosecution claims that Olson was involved in two Sacramento-area bank holdups in 1975 that allegedly were committed by members of the SLA, the radical group that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst.
Prosecutors want to use the testimony of White and two other elderly women as circumstantial evidence to show Olson’s involvement in SLA actions. Her lawyers say the robberies are irrelevant to the Los Angeles case.
White has said that just before the holdup of Guild Savings and Loan, she saw a man outside the bank who matched the description of James Kilgore, Olson’s former boyfriend.
Prosecutors plan to interview the other women in a Sacramento courtroom on Aug. 10.
Marceline Jones, 80, and Evelyn Burns, 78, both have said they saw a woman suspect during a bank holdup in Carmichael.
Olson has denied that she was involved in the bomb case or the bank robberies.