Saturday, September 17, 2011

The trial that wasn't

Off I went to Washington, D.C., on an overnight bus ride, ready to put the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly known as the School of the Americas) on trial. I left shortly before midnight on Saturday and arrived on Sunday morning at the Megabus station, not too far from Union Station.
Sunday was a day for preparation for the Big Event. With the assistance of our attorney advisers Mark Goldstone and Ann Wilcox, we held a mock trial. Mark played the role of the judge and Ann played the role of the prosecutor. I must say that they did a fine job. We also had a visiting attorney from Cleveland who played the role of the police lieutenant who read us the warnings while we were simulating dead people (victims of SOA graduates) on the White House in front of the White House on April 10th. I must say that he was thoroughly annoying. Hence, he did an excellent acting job.
The real police lieutenant's name is Lt. LaChance.
After the mock trial was over, both Mark and Ann said that we were ready to win our trial.
I never had any doubt about the outcome of the trial I was sure that we would be acquitted. So I never wrote a sentencing statement.
On Monday morning, the group of fifteen defendants, lawyer advisers, and support people gathered in front of the courthouse. Before we entered the courthouse, we had a press conference. Most of the media seemed to have come from Russia! In fact, all of the media came from Russia! No U.S. media showed up.
After the press conference, we filed into the building one by one to clear security.
Inside the building, we were ready to find our courtroom. We walked down a long corridor. People were everywhere, waiting outside of every courtroom. Some were standing, while others sat on the floor. All were waiting for their turn to experience justice. Seeing that horde of people sitting around all of those doors that were supposed to open up to justice made me wonder how the system functioned at all.
It wasn't long before we got our answer.
We went into the courtroom and, before long, we were called before the bench. Judge Frederick Sullivan of the D.C. Superior Court had all of us sit in the jury box. He informed us that he was swamped with cases and really couldn't devote the time that it would take for us to have a proper trial. He said that he would try to find a judge for us who was not swamped with cases. He suggested that we go to the cafeteria or the the witness room and wait for about an hour or so.
We went to the witness room and filed in. It was a small room with three chairs and sufficient floor space for most of us. We didn't have long to wait, however. Someone knocked on the door and said something about the prosecutor needing to speak with us.
The prosecutor, Brian Kim, stated that he was not prepared to try the case. He said that he had no witnesses. Apparently, the Tar Sands protests, that resulted in the arrests of more than 1,200 persons between August 20th through September 3rd, wore out the police to the point at which they were not ready to appear in court as witnesses.
It really does seem as if the system crashed.
Our case was abruptly dismissed. It was, however, dismissed without prejudice, which means that the government can refile the charges if it so chooses.
That probably won't happen.
We left the courtroom and walked past hordes of people who were still waiting for their day, or their brief moment, in court.
It is a sad commentary on the state of justice in Washington, D.C.
And the situation in Washington, D.C., is undoubtedly the same in other cities and states throughout the United States.

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