Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Report on Cindy's day in court; to be continued

Free the Sheehan 34!

Cindy Sheehan

(Stephanie Allen is a young woman from Buffalo who came down to D.C. for the September 24 March and who decided to get arrested, along with Cindy Sheehan and others, in front of the White House on September 26. The group of over 300 protesters were engaged in peaceful civil disobedience. Their arrests were statements of protest against the war in Iraq, and the lies of the Bush Administration. Stephanie came back to D.C. to have her hearing today. It was also Cindy Sheehan's hearing. Here is Stephanie's report.)

Stephanie has returned from her day in court, which will continue tomorrow. Today was a long day of waiting and riding a roller coaster. No one was sentenced today; some of the cases were dismissed (the arresting officer did not show up) but everyone plans to show up tomorrow.

The defendants want to have their say. The group of 34 had requested that they be arraigned and tried together as a group. After opening arguments by Jon Norris and Mark Goldstone, the attorneys, it became clear that the judge and prosecuting attorney wanted to arraign and try each defendant separately, by arresting officer.

A two-hour recess ensued, while the group re-thought their strategies.

Upon returning to the courtroom, and after the chaos settled, the announcement was made that the group would be arraigned and tried together, but grouped by arresting officer.

It was around 2 pm by this time. This was as far as the trial had progressed in five hours...

Then the arresting officers were sworn in and gave testimony. All of them could identify at least some of the people they had arrested, but this task was made easier by the fact that the arrestees for each officer were lined up directly in front of them, neatly in a row.

One officer, in particular, seemed to be confused about what actions he had taken on September 26, and had difficulty defining what it meant to arrest someone. The testimony was jumbled and the details of the day eluded several of the officers.

By 6:30 p.m., the prosecution had one more witness and none of the protestors had made it to the stand. The judge said "We're almost done; the last witness will testify in the morning."

The group headed out for pizza, discussing the strategy for trying to get at least a little time on the stand for their own messages.

Stephanie has a good vibe about tomorrow. She does not think she will be convicted, nor will Cindy Sheehan. She hopes that regardless of the outcome, when they leave the courtroom, the media will hear from them.

Her energy is good. Should her instincts be incorrect, and a conviction results, she will appeal, "definitely."

This is her first glimpse into the vagaries of the judicial system. She said she never understood how easily you can tell what the judge is thinking. The politics of the process are quite clear too.

"We are very positive; thanks to all who are supporting us!"


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