OVERCROWDED COURTS BUT
NO PROBLEM SPENDING MONEY TO
Posted by: "Robert Norse" email@example.com
Mon Apr 25, 2011 10:06 pm (PDT)
(For a description of the charges and listing of the defendants, go to the website above and read the main story)
First Day of Trial
by Robert Norse
Monday Apr 25th, 2011 9:59 PM
OVERCROWDED COURTS BUT NO PROBLEM SPENDING MONEY TO PROSECUTE HOMELESS PROTESTERS
The courtroom was crowded with jury members who were questioned mostly
by the judge. Judge Gallagher began to bemoaning his overcrowded court
schedule with the shutdown of several Watsonville courts and the
diversion of drug cases into his court. This overcrowded court lament
of course, would have been a perfect reason to drop these cases, had
Gallagher actually been serious.
In fact, Gallagher's
explanation was an attempt to head off what developed later in the
day--jury resentment at the D.A.'s decision to prosecute and the judge's
dignifying the prosecution with trial what are essentially homeless
cases that really are immediately dismissable under the Necessity
Defense (that the defendants needed to sleep somewhere, and nowhere on
public property was legal in the city). Why waste everyone's time
(thousands of man-hours if you count jury time) in justifying
politically motivated 647e arrests (of which there were 40)?
Most of them went to Failure to Appear since homeless people can't
afford the luxury of middle-class court appearance games when survival
sleep is the issue. Which means more work for the deputies and police
and deeper disability for the homeless people so stigmatized and
NO RIGHTS WITHOUT "PERMISSION"
A bizarre case
from the beginning. Judge Gallagher acknowledged from the getgo that
the deputies had "allowed" the protesters to camp in front of the
courthouse for a month, but suddenly decided it was "lodging" in early
August, without there being any change in the law, the signage, or
direction from the Board of Supervisors. What suddenly became illegal
in early August that was legal throughout July?
The judge did
make a show of egalitarianism and respect for the jury by coming down
off the bench, standing by the door as the jurors came in, commending
them, reassuring them, offering to answer any questions throughout by
raised hands. He didn't advise them, of course, of their right to jury
independence or nullification- -that they are the final judges of the
facts and the law.
The case would turn, the judge said, on the
prosecution' s proving "beyond a reasonable doubt" that (a) the
defendants "lodged" (in being present at night on the county courthouse
steps with political signs against the Sleeping Ban), many of them
sleeping there overnight, and (b) the defendants didn't have
"permission" to be there (on what supposedly public property which
wasn't posted with closing hours).
JURORS SPEAK OUT AND OPT OUT
I did hear some remarkable statements by a couple of potential jury
members that they felt the entire trial was a waste of taxpayer time and
money as well as citizen time.
One woman, who said she been
the foreperson of a previous jury said she couldn't sit on this one
impartially because she felt the whole thing was such a colossal waste
of time plus the fact that she saw police wasting still money issuing
harassment tickets (as to her two teenage sons) and then ignoring real
robberies such as happened to her.
Two other male jury panel
members said they'd either lived in their own vehicles in the past and
seen the extent of police harassment and were familiar with it, and so
couldn't be a part of the trial.
Scores of people were being
pulled away from their work, their families, their livelihoods to punish
homeless people for publicly and peacefully protesting the city and
county anti-homeless laws and establish the kind of safe sleeping zone
that the city and county refused to establish.
others who said they were too hostile to the "homeless by choice" and
those who were "manipulating a political agenda" or too friendly with
the police to sit on the jury.
THIRTY (COUNT 'EM, THIRTY!) PROSECUTION COPS EXPECTED
Expected are thirty prosecution witnesses, almost all of them Sheriff's
Deputies and SCPD officers--who will be called away from their work in
this costly and time-consuming punitive exercise to punish protesters
for insisting on raising issues that city and county officials don't
like to think about and have refused to address.
the same judge who had denied attorney Ed Frey's claim that the law
(647e) was itself overbroad. Overbreadth in Gallagher's court is
apparently a virtue for the judge, who told a potential juror,
"lodging" means "staying without permission virtually anywhere".
The notion that police can order us away from public property if we
don't have "permission" to be there, should raise alarm bells in any
member of the community, but to the homeless it cuts especially deep.
For those who are holding a picket sign, it's doubly abusive--since it
means we don't have First Amendment right son any public property unless
we're given "permission" .
Sounds a little like Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria. perhaps?
I left around 2:30 PM and understand the jury selection process continued through the afternoon.
I was told it resumes tomorrow at 11 AM, and is slated to go until 4:30 PM with a lunch break from noon to 1:30 PM.
The case is likely to take two weeks, the judge told the jury panel.