Jerry Garcia’s briefcase with lost songs released by police 30 years ago 

click to enlarge Jerry Garcia
  • KRISTY MCDONALD/ap file photo
  • A briefcase containing songs written by Jerry Garcia and confiscated by police 30 years ago was actually released by police eight months after it was confiscated, police said Friday.
It turns out San Francisco police might not have the lost songs of Jerry Garcia after all.

Police on Friday told The San Francisco Examiner that the briefcase belonging to the Grateful Dead legend that was booked as evidence following his drug arrest 30 years ago was actually released to someone only eight months after the incident.

The revelation comes days after The Examiner published a story about whether police might still have the briefcase, which reportedly contained unpublished songs Garcia was working on with the band’s lyricist, Robert Hunter. After the story came out, the department began searching its evidence room for the briefcase.

In the brown briefcase were miscellaneous papers, as described in Garcia’s arrest report, and it was booked as evidence at the Richmond Police Station on Jan. 18, 1985 after police busted Garcia for drug possession in Golden Gate Park.

In a recent interview published in Rolling Stone magazine, Hunter said he would like the Police Department to return the briefcase if they still have it.

Hunter said there were “a number of new songs [Garcia] was working on” in that briefcase. He said he has never “gone searching” for the songs, but “if the police still have them, I’d like them back, please. It doesn’t seem right. A lot of those songs disappeared.”

Garcia’s daughter Trixie Garcia had told The Examiner she had never heard the briefcase story. But she expressed interest in trying to recover the songs.

A police spokeswoman initially told The Examiner that the department might still have the briefcase, but it would take a request from the Garcia estate to search for it. After The Examiner’s story was published, a police spokesman told a local television news reporter that the department did not have the briefcase, suggesting it was either donated or destroyed.

But on Friday, Officer Albie Esparza, another department spokesman, said that while the property division’s search did not turn up Garcia’s briefcase, it did on Friday morning provide information to Police Chief Greg Suhr that its records show the briefcase was turned over to a “responsible party” in August 1985 after the drug arrest was resolved.

“All property including the briefcase relating to the arrest of Jerry Garcia in January 1985 was released following the completion of the case, which was in August 1985. We do not have it,” Esparza said. “We released it to a responsible party. Who it was released to, we have to find out by pulling up records, which could take some time.”

The prospect of finding unknown Grateful Dead songs is particularly intriguing this year as surviving members of the band celebrate its 50th anniversary. As part of the celebration, band members Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir are playing three sold-out shows in July at Chicago’s Soldier Field, the location of the last performance by the band before Garcia died of a heart attack Aug. 9, 1995. The band was formed in Palo Alto in 1965, and shortly afterward moved to the Haight-Ashbury.

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