Jimi and George Simmons were charged with the death of Sgt. William Cross. The court appointed two defense attorneys from the small community of Walla Walla. George's attorney was an experienced ex-prosecutor named John Biggs. Jimi Simmons' appointed attorney had never defended a major felony, much less a death penalty case. He refused to even meet wih Jimi without a protective barrier between them.
“When the whiteman made up the word justice, I think he meant it to be just as it sounds. Just-us.”
- Yvonne Wanrow Swan, 1976
A group of Seattle grassroots activists believed that Jimi needed an attorney who understood the cultural ramifications of the case and had death penalty experience. Leonard Weinglass, John Wolfe and Mary Wrasman volunteered their time and legal expertise. Lenny Weinglass is an internationally recognized civil rights attorney who has defended clients such as Angela Davis, the Chicago 8, and Daniel Ellsburg in the Pentagon Papers case. Weinglass had a history of working with American Indian activists. He respected their culture and understood its impact in the courtroom.
The Simmons Brothers Defense Committee was formed by Karen Rudolph and many other supporters of prisoner and Native American rights. They worked successfully to build national and international awareness of the case.