28 Oct 2011
The D.C. Superior Court ruled today that potential pedestrian convenience was more important than the US Constitution or than stopping wars. The 18 defendants (including eight members of Veterans For Peace) were found guilty by Judge Canan of "failure to obey" and "blocking/incommoding" after being arrested at the White House, March 19, 2011.
The defendants argued for their 1st Amendment right to petition their government for redress of grievances.
They called on the US Government to obey the law, to obey international law, and to stop the crimes against peace, the war crimes, and the crimes against humanity. The government argued that protecting Constitutional rights and ending war crimes were less important than assuring that a potential pedestrian would not be delayed by a few seconds passing in front of the White House.
During the four-day trial Richard Duffee, who worked under Benjamin Ferencz (the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor), submitted a motion on the relevance of international law and that expert witnesses be allowed to testify to the facts about U.S. war crimes. The US Constitution makes the Geneva conventions and other elements of international law the supreme law of the land and enforceable in every court. But the Judge denied the motion. Duffee later said, "For the last thirty years, the United States has been reneging on the basic commitment it made after WWII to develop international legal institutions, because we want to be the judge in our own case."
The defendants maintained a focus on the US Constitution, that international law is enforceable in every court, and that cost of war. The court heard personal stories from several vets. Chuck Heyn, a Vietnam veteran, said "When I left Vietnam I pledged to the guys I served with who did not come back that I would speak out against my country whenever my country decided to commit our troops to war based on lies"
It was a pro se defense (the defendants acted as their own lawyers) ably assisted by attorney-advisors Ann Wilcox, Deborah Anderson and Mark Goldstone.
Judge Russell F. Canan, Jr., Associate Judge of the DC Superior Court found the defendants guilty on all charges, fining them $50 plus $100 court fees. Defendant Bev Rice chose to go to jail rather than pay a fine for an unjust law. She was held for about 10 hours before being released. The case will be appealed.
Questions should be directed to: Elliott Adams (518-441-2697) Ann Wilcox (202-441-3265)
Never More Proud to Be in a Courtroom
By Kathleen Kirwin ... Posted on 29 October 2011
"AS THE FATHER OF A YOUNG SON, I WENT TO THE WHITE HOUSE ON MARCH 19TH TO BE A VOICE FOR SHAHIDULLAH." (From the closing argument of Defendant Art Laffin in DC Superior Court.)
Yesterday marked a watershed day in my 27-year legal career. It did not occur as I deftly cross-examined a witness, nor while waxing eloquent in front of a jury. Rather, it transpired as I sat in the back row of Courtroom 219 in the DC Superior Court while watching and listening to the final day of testimony and closing arguments at a trial where 19 American citizens argued for justice. Notwithstanding that they were the ones on trial, the justice they pleaded for was not for themselves, and it never would be. Rather, the group's cry was brought in the names of people half a world away, and the ultimate justice sought at the trial was a simple one: Stop killing them! Stop killing them!
Last March 19th, these 19 people wanted to talk to their president. They had a grievance with him and they went to his house to address it. In the airing of the grievance, the Park Police of the District of Columbia arrested this group of people for all manner of disorderly-ness -- nuisance, not acting in obeisance, and generally getting in the way of life as it is known outside the fence surrounding 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But the group's message would not be deterred and the arrest and trial of these 19 individuals brought to the public forum this week the voices of those who are, indeed, the actual victims of what it means to be unlawfully prosecuted, with the president of this nation acting as judge, jury and executioner.
On March 19, 2011, on what was the beginning of the ninth year of America's criminal war of aggression against the sovereign nation of Iraq, and well into the 10th year of this country's annihilation of Afghanistan, the honored and honorable group, Veterans For Peace, organized and led a day of protest at the White House. In all, the Park Police arrested 133 people that day for various and petty misdemeanors in alleged contravention of the Code of Federal Regulation. While drones and Apache helicopter gunships were busily raining down death from the skies above Afghanistan that day without fear or risk of prosecution or retribution for untold and innumerable violations of international law, the Park Police were assuring that not a picture-postcard moment was lost in front of the White House as they arrested those who might have momentarily interfered with that shameful snapshot of America.