No necessity decision yet in “rosary arrest” pre-trial hearing; trial Sept 23

posted by Mike on June 16th, 2008

Today was the pre-trial hearing for the Worcester “rosary arrest” case. Note that I am a defendant in this case, and that while I will try to present a fair view of the proceedings, it will probably be biased.

The big news so far: the trial will be 9am, September 23, 2008.


Photos outside the courthouse.

Just before the hearing, Assistant US Attorney Karin M. Bell handed us copies of a letter from the US Attorney’s office to the court (not even a formal motion), arguing that we shouldn’t be allowed to use the necessity defense because we hadn’t exhausted all legal means, and in particular could have applied for a permit to have a prayer service in the lobby of the federal building.

Hon. Timothy S. Hillman presiding.

Judge Hillman asks about our necessity defense motions. (Once I get ahold of my camera, I’ll post pix of all these letters and motions.) We say: can we discuss consolidating our cases first?

Judge will let Scott Schaeffer-Duffy speak for himself, then ask if any of the defendants want to add or subtract from what he says.

SSD says he knows he’s asking for something out of the ordinary in requesting the necessity defense for civil disobedience. He explains the necessity defense. He goes over what evidence we will bring and what our witnesses will say.

Judge: Couldn’t you have done this protest elsewhere? SSD: This is the home of an actual branch of the govt in Worcester.

Karin Bell: The only relevant thing is whether they disobeyed orders, disrupted the entrance, and disrupted the operation of the court. (From the way she phrases things I think she understands that nobody blocked the entrance in the commonly-understood sense of “blocked.”)

She wants to focus on the 4th prong of the Maxwell case. “The defendants’ impatience” is not sufficient to raise a necessity defense.

KB: The defendants said they were not “protesting” but “praying,” but there are also prayer-related cases involving necessity on the books.

KB makes the point that we could have applied for a permit. She says the permits would likely have been approved. (Certainly in my case, I did not believe on March 19 that applying for a permit was a “reasonable” course of action.)

(Update: There does not appear to be a permit process.)

She says they 13 cases in our motion aren’t cited properly, and that the only one she could find shouldn’t have been included. (Just for fun, you might want to use the specialized legal database “Google” to try to find references to these cases. Dissing citation style is a low blow . . . .)

She suggests there aren’t enough federal cases to support our defense. She thinks we picked the courthouse for our prayer service for publicity.

Judge takes matter under advisement and will issue a written decision on whether the defendants can attempt a necessity defense.

Trial date set for 9am, Tuesday, September 23, 2008.

SSD: Procedural issue. Can we question witnesses? Judge: Yes, of course. SSD: Can we question each other? Judge: OK. But let’s stay close to the rules.

KB: That might be “a little bit unruly.”

Judge worries that too, but he’ll keep the defendants in check.

SSD: We don’t want to waste the govt’s time.

KB: Govt is OK with consolidation. (That is, making the cases of the 5 defendants one case. I’m not too up on legal jargon.)

Judge: I don’t think we can do that. But we can have one plea with all the docket numbers on it.

KB: Even if necessity is not allowed, defendants might try to bring in motive. Govt objects and will continue to object to them bringing in motive.

SSD: At the conclusion of our brief, we ask if you reject necessity that we can talk about our motives briefly.

Judge: If I disallow nesc., you can briefly talk about what you were trying to do.

And that’s that.

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