Good News on the Legal Front
We just got word from our colleagues in Denver that the trials of people arrested at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) protests in August are not going so well for the Prosecution.
Mano, a friend and supporter of the Street Medics and community activist for many years within the networks of indigenous and native sovereignty struggles, just sent us a reporter's view of the trials that ...could be boiled down to this: "they don't have a case".
The article is from the Rocky Mountain News, by Bill Johnson. Not very well written, it winds around in confusing ways and misses the important parts by trying to "sound smart". But the reporter's intentions are good; he illustrates that Due Process, the US Constitution, and true enforcement of the Law have been reduced to the level of Saturday morning cartoons.
So far in the trials stemming from the DNC events, where the only illegal activities that took place were carried out by illegitimate authorities, the Movement is winning. Defendants are being acquitted of charges, charges are being dropped, and entire cases being thrown out of Court.
Here is an excerpt - it speaks very clearly about the level of "evidence" that's being used to "prove" in Court that the people who were arrested were, indeed, violating the law - from Police testimony of why a particular person was arrested, as summarized by the author below:
"I didn't actually see him break the law, but he was in a group of people the commander told me to arrest, so I did."
Another testimony, "proving" the defendant's guilt:
"I didn't actually see her break the law, but she was in a group of people the commander told me to arrest, so I did."
And so on, and so forth. All in all, the testimony in Court confirms what those of us experienced in the streets of Denver first hand: that the only violations of the law came from members of the Police who applied themselves in violence without provocation, and who repeatedly violated the Constitutional rights of peaceful, non-violent people who had assembled to express themselves.
Events in Denver were only a shadow of the naked brutality unleashed by Military and Police forces in St. Paul during the Republican National Convention (RNC). But the battles on the legal front stemming from the RNC protests and arrests will most probably on the whole be - at least for the mass of the arrestees - even easier. There's an abundance of evidence on video and by eyewitnesses that the only violations of the law during the RNC were the cowardly excesses and brutal methods used by those in power.
Which is why ultimately, they will be stripped of it.
Please give generously to this Legal Defense fund:
Flimsy argument in Courtroom 282
By Bill Johnson, Rocky Mountain News
Published October 21, 2008
As trials go, and I've sat through many, this wasn't much of one. It went pretty much like this:
Officer No. 1: I didn't actually see him break the law, but he was in a group of people the commander told me to arrest, so I did.
Officer No. 2: I didn't actually see her break the law, but she was in a group of people the commander told me to arrest, so I did.
City Attorney No. 1: Your honor, the prosecution rests.
If there is any justice still around, the four women and two men who make up the jury in Courtroom 282 of Denver County Court will this morning do what they often do on TV, tell Judge Kathleen Bowers that there is no need for deliberations, that they made up their minds, oh, three days ago: Not guilty.
I get what Denver is trying to do: If you have your police department corral, hose down with pepper spray and arrest more than 100 people in the middle of downtown during, of all things, the Democratic National Convention, you better darn well prosecute those who demand their day in court.
The problem it seems, as the first of the DNC trials got under way Monday, is that everyone who did the actual law-breaking likely has pleaded out already.
The scorecard thus far on the first five cases to reach Courtroom 282: three outright dismissals and two of the three charges against the remaining two defendants thrown out.
At the very least, if the jury was paying attention at all to the case I heard the prosecution put on Tuesday, the "not guilty" verdicts should be returned long before lunch today.
Eli Hardy and Tiffany Bray remain charged with obstructing a street or public passageway. They were among the more than 100 people swept up by more than 100 police officers pursuing demonstrators in the early evening of Aug. 25 at 15th Street and Court Place.
They both maintain they were merely in the area at the time the protest march formed, wanted none of it, yet were prevented from leaving the area by the cordon thrown up by police.
Nothing the prosecution presented by the close of its case Tuesday proved otherwise.
Lonn Heymann and Qusair Mohamedbhai, attorneys for the two, looked at each other quite quizzically and for long moments when city attorneys told the judge they were resting their case.
"OK, who goes first?" I heard one of them say.
Lonn Heymann argued passionately that the charges should be dismissed immediately, even if the judge were to give the prosecution the best of things.
No one had seen Hardy or Bray do anything, much less testify to it. He even said, "Are you kidding me?"
Assistant City Attorney Nate Fehrmann countered that the judge should at least let the jury decide. That officers had testified that members of the group with which Hardy and Bray were arrested had been seen, well, in the streets on that day.
You could tell the judge was torn. She took her time. She heard everyone out. And in the end, Kathleen Bowers took the easiest and, perhaps, fairest route.
"Let's let the jury decide," she finally ruled.
Whatever the outcome, what I walked away with from Courtroom 282 could fill this newspaper. The first thing is that being within spitting distance of any large crowd that is even remotely protesting anything means - and this truly is "anti-American" - arrest can happen virtually anytime.
Your day is ruined. I will later tell the story of Tiffany Bray, of the fear and humiliation she endured on that summer day, an ordeal that even an acquittal today will never wash away.
Tiffany Bray was new in town and coming back from shopping when she was swept up and told by officers multiple times to just sit where she was standing, that if she did that, the officers would let her go home. In her case, that was on the curb, her feet in the street.
Prosecutors on Tuesday tried to use that as proof she was blocking the street.
No matter what happens today to Eli Hardy and Tiffany Bray, the reality, too, is that more than 50 others like them are also due very shortly inside Courtroom 282.
It has taken three days now to adjudicate the two of them, a process that at minimum has involved a judge, her clerk, seven jurors, three to four city attorneys, three defense attorneys and a small forest of trees.
Numbers are not my friend, and I still cannot balance my checkbook, but even I know that is costing us - meaning you and me - a boatload of taxpayer cash.
Now multiply that number by at least 50.
And to what end?
It cannot be, not as I sit here, jailing and criminalizing Tiffany Bray and Eli Hardy.
Yet after hours spent in Courtroom 282, along with my personal road weariness, I must tell you that the system will say and do as it will. And, in the end, quite sadly, it will do so on the flimsiest of proof.
Everything has lost its ability to surprise.
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