Today was a satisfying day: we have a jury!
Two fifths of the people in the jury pool were dismissed for cause, unwilling to comply with the legal requirement to presume innocence. One potential juror said there had to be consequences for laws broken under any circumstances. “If we didn’t have laws we’d have chaos. There’s always consequences for choices.”
“Don’t you think that this law, the presumption of innocence, is a good alternative to chaos?”
Michael’s attorney, Hoffman returned. “I want to know that you are not just going to find these fellows guilty because the police arrested them. I want you to hear all the evidence and make a fair decision.”
“I would like to say that I’m the kind of person that does not pass judgement,” the potential juror responded. “But unfortunately, after the discussion yesterday, there are some preconceived notions. I trust law enforcement, and when there have been criminal charges placed, part of my mind asks, well there’s got to be a reason, it’s been a year. There’s a good reason we’re here. Law enforcement is sworn in and they do their duty. I assume they are guilty.”
Ironically, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is a law that North Dakotans again and again proclaimed they couldn’t adhere to, despite repeated prompting from the judge.
Jury selection was fascinating. By the time the jury was seated, we had a strong sense of some of their characters; how many children they had; and where they worked, grew up, and had lived.
Then we heard opening arguments. The prosecutor framed TransCanada as the victim and accused Michael and Sam of being prideful hypocrites. “He rode a jet fuel airplane, he didn’t walk here. Sam came from Vermont, rented a car, and it wasn’t a hybrid… their purpose wasn’t to see the beautiful gorge or get to know the people, [they came here to make videos to show to] people in California and New York.”
Hoffman and Kirschner’s opening remarks called on the educational and moral legacy of Michael Foster, and Sam Jessup’s deep belief in the democratic system. The remarks framed their action as a noble confrontation of what’s broken in our democracy, where profits are held in higher regard than people and planet.
We’re all up late, preparing for tomorrow. There’s a campfire, camp food, and the murmurs of people planning for a better future.