The longest and costliest criminal trial ever held here came to an end today when nine MOVE members were found guilty of third-degree murder in the 1978 shooting death of a police officer.
The defendants, members of a revolutionary group, also were found guilty of attempted murder, conspiracy and seven counts of aggravated assault. Each faces 50 to 100 years in prison.
The five male and four female members of MOVE -- it is not an acronym -- hurled obscenities at Common Pleas Court Judge Edwin S. Malmed as he announced his verdicts.
Michael Davis Africa, one of the defendants, shouted, "His decision is made already," to the crowded courtroom. "When did you see this much security in a courtroom if they were going to let me go?"
Delbert Orr Africa (all MOVE members use the surname Africa), screamed "liar!" when Malmed announced the verdict.
The prosecutors in the 19-week-long, $400,000 trial said they were satisfied with the verdict.
"I'm pleased," said coprosecutor John Straub. "A lot of people worked a lot of hours to see that they got a fair trial. . . . They said they would be railroaded. They weren't. It took 21 months to get a resolution of this case, but we did it."
The convictions stem from an Aug. 8, 1978, shooting between police and MOVE members at a ramshackel Victorian home in the neighborhood of Powelton Village near Drexel University. Police officer James Ramp was killed in the confrontation, and 18 police officers and firefighters were injured. The city razed the MOVE house that day.
The defendants, who wear their hair in dreadlocks and who do not believe in technology or most of society's institutions, have contended that they fired no shots.
One MOVE member suffered a minor gunshot wound in the incident, and another, Delbert Africa, suffered a fractured cheekbone when he was beaten and kicked by three police officers as he surrendered. Those police officers are to come to trial on assault charges later this month.
The MOVE murder trial began Dec. 10, after nine months of pretrial hearings, and it was soon obvious that this would be no ordinary proceeding. Malmed granted the defendants' request to represent themselves -- though he appointed attorneys as back up -- and for the case to be heard without a jury.
By mid-January two melees in court and the defendants' penchant for invective obscenity led Malmed to order all of the MOVE members removed from the courtroom.