Peoples Temple and Mark Lane

During the summer of 1978, the leaders in Peoples Temple – presumably both in the United States and in Guyana – engaged the services of attorney Mark Lane to represent the group in federal court against the government agencies that comprised the “conspiracy” against them. The details of the arrangements are unclear – none of the Temple records of the transaction survived, and Lane took pains to put some distance between himself and the Temple in the aftermath of November 18, going so far in his 1980 book The Strongest Poison as to deny that he ever promised to represent the Temple in such a lawsuit (an oversight not corrected in his 2012 book, Citizen Lane) – but numerous documents recovered from Jonestown lay out the campaign as Lane envisioned it and as Temple leaders (especially Gene Chaikin) responded to it.

  1. Counter Offensive: Projected Offensive Program for the People’s Temple
  2. Planning the Counter Offensive
  3. Evaluation Of Mark Lane Proposal
  4. The Mark Lane/Don Freed Press Conference
  5. Eugene Chaikin’s Efforts to Reach Mark Lane
  6. Tropp Letter to San Francisco Chronicle on Counter Offensive

Additional primary sources documenting Mr. Lane’s connection with the Temple include:

  1. A speech Mark Lane gave before the Jonestown community in September 1978;
  2. Mr. Lane’s letters to Rep. Leo Ryan and U.S. Embassy Consul Richard McCoy in early November 1978, as well as Rep. Ryan’s reply to him (both located on the November 1978 page of this section;
  3. A narrative of events which Mr. Lane wrote in diary form during the first ten days following the deaths; and
  4. Mr. Lane’s statement – both as a PDF and as text – made on KGO Radio in January 1979, two months after the deaths, and attached to Mike Prokes’ press statement issued on the date of his suicide.

A profile of Mark Lane which appeared in the August 1979 edition of Mother Jones Magazine discusses his involvement with Peoples Temple on pages 30-32.

Most of the material for this section was transcribed by Rikke Wettendorff. The editors of the website are grateful for her invaluable assistance.