Friday, May 17, 2013

With Hands Tied

Trey Smith

“The Defendants may not present a defense of necessity or justification … evidence that the operations at Y-12 violated international or domestic law, evidence that their actions were compelled by the Nuremberg Principles or evidence of their motives”.

This April 30 ruling by US District Judge Amul Thapar makes a sham of the upcoming Knoxville, Tenn. trial of three pacifists who snipped through four wire fences to string “Crime Scene” tape around paint slogans on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility at the Y-12 complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Y-12 houses 400 tons of HEU. (That’s 800,000 pounds of material that the US has threatened to bomb Iran over, if a single ounce of it is ever found there.)
~ from Protecting the Fiction of Legal H-bombs by John LaForge ~
Is this even legal? How can a judge preempt a defense argument before it is even made? What is the point of having a jury if they are blocked from hearing a substantial part of the evidence?

It is as if Judge Thapar has declared that individuals who commit civil disobedience have no other motivation than simply to break the law! In most situations, this is not the case. People commit civil disobedience because they often believe that the moral imperative to protest is more important than the law[s] they have chosen to violate. Their entire defense centers on what they believe these moral imperatives are. The jury then decides which they believe is more important: the moral imperatives or the law.

I wholeheartedly agree with LaForge's characterization of the judge's ruling. His ruling has taken away the only defense the defendants have. It makes the verdict a foregone conclusion before the trial actually gets underway.

If I was one of these three defendants, I would ignore the judge's ruling. I would tell the jury WHY I had committed this act of civil disobedience. I'm confident this would cause this judge to find me in contempt of court, but so what? I am going to jail anyway, so why not go down fighting!

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