Supreme Court 9 Trial ends
with Time Served and a return to the Court for the 14th Annual Fast & Vigil
WASHINGTON - Eight anti-death penalty activists who were
arrested for unfurling a STOP EXECUTIONS banner on the plaza of the US Supreme
Court on January 17th,
2007, the 30th Anniversary of the 1st execution in what is known as the "modern"
era of the death penalty, were found guilty and sentenced to time served and a
$50 contribution to the Victims of Violent Crimes Compensation fund. This was
similar to the sentence received by the 9th demonstrator, Franklin
Dew, who entered a nolo plea in March. They had faced up to 60 days in jail and
a fine of $5,000.00 on each count.
January 17th is the date on which Gary Mark Gilmore was executed by the state
of Utah in a death by Firing Squad in 1977. Mr. Gilmore "volunteered"
for execution. In the last 30 years, approximately 10% of the 1086 executions
have been "state-assisted suicides."
The STOP EXECUTIONS banner was draped across the courtroom and then entered into
evidence by the government. After today's trial several of the convicted
assisted the prosecutors, both Tulane Law School graduates who indicated they
were impressed with the work of the New Orleans Innocence Project, to refold
the 30-foot banner in the hallway of DC Superior Court outside Judge Rafael
Diaz' courtroom. The defense entered
the Prayer to End the Death Penalty by Sr. Helen Prejean into evidence. All 8
represented themselves with Mark Goldstone and Carrie Ellis serving as attorney
On trial were Elizabeth V. Brockman of Durham, North Carolina, Brian Buckley of
Charlottesville, Virginia, Ronald W. Kaz of Chas, South Carolina, Scott Langley
of Boston, Massachusetts, Rachel Y. Lawler of Montpelier, Vermont, Thomas W.
Muther of Topeka, Kansas, Jack Payden-Travers of Lynchburg, Virginia and Anna
Z. Shockley of South Carolina. All nine arrested on Jan. 17th had spent 30
hours in the District of Columbia jail before being released on personal
recognizance and had been issues a stay-away order banning them from the
Supreme Court building and grounds until their trial.
The morning of the trial was taken up with Judge Diaz clearing his docket of
other cases and ruling on the pre-trial motions for dismissal by the defense
and the dropping of one of the two count indictment by the government. The
serendipitous arrival in the courtroom of supporters throughout the day was
much appreciated by all the defendants. A mock trial to prepare them to
represent themselves as pro se defendants had been held the night before in the
chapel of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in DC which extended hospitality
to the group in January, March, and June.
This marks the 3rd time that anti-death penalty activists have displayed a STOP
EXECUTIONS banner on the grounds of the US Supreme Court. 18 were convicted for
the 20th anniversary action in 1997; 7 were acquitted after the 25th
anniversary demonstration. A total of 34 arrests have now occurred as a result.
The 8 "convicted" for the 30th anniversary action have 30 days in
which to enter an appeal. In anticipation of such an action Judge Diaz arranged
for a court-recorder to take the testimony as
he feared that with such a large number of pro se defendants the electronic
microphone system would not capture all of their statements.
The "convicted" death penalty activists returned to the sidewalk in
front of the US Supreme Court at midnight June 28th to participate in the beginning
of the14th Annual Fast & Vigil to End the Death Penalty which ends on July
2nd, the date on which the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in
1976 in the case of Gregg v Georgia.
Reported by Jack Payden-Travers, of www.VADP.org
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