On the way to the courthouse, we are driving these long straight routes; above us, low in the sky, a heavy full moon setting. There’s mist in sharp ribbons just below the meager tree lines and it’s all, just, so starkly beautiful. Today, Michael and Sam were convicted of almost all their charges. Conscious of my own naivety I will tell you, I expected better from North Dakota. But we are here and we came ready for this.
Thursday night Michael realized that the eighteen seconds of a film the prosecution had played the day prior was from a longer video made by supporter Connie Barlow. In it Michael is featured saying all of the things that he and Sam might have expressed in the best of testimonies. But, in this case, they were not confronted with rebuttal. Under no other circumstances would a movement video have been admitted as evidence save this accident. No other testimonies needed - and the defense rests.
Closing arguments crept from inspiring to profane. Both Hoffman and Kirschner invoked the lives of those dedicated to the struggle against tyranny. They both emboldened the jury to act against a “government who doesn’t listen” where the “money goes into politics, but no one pays for you.” Kirschner hit it home saying, “ You are the voice of this community. You can make your voice heard in North Dakota by bringing back a verdict that says ‘NO.’ We are not going to punish people for letting us know what goes on in the world.”
In response, the assistant to the State’s Attorney who (not joking) rolls a podium up to the jury to speak, all Sean Spicer style, and rants for twenty minutes about how allowing people with strong ethical conviction to reshape United States law would pave the way for Sharia law, “to allow the killing of even your own children.”
And truly, we were breathless with the astounding overreach of it. And, it did feel like the prosecution had pushed the jurors too far. Some of them were weeping as they announced so many guilty sentences. So there it is. We prepared for this, we came, we had the conversations; and we leave with the moon at our backs and those stretched, harvest fields forever in mind.
Love, Nicky Bradford
You can help the legal defense fund by donating here now: https://actionfund-climatedisobedience.nationbuilder.com/donate
Dr. James Hansen is here along with Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel and scholar Tom Hastings. North Dakota barred the truth from its courts this morning, denying the motion to allow their expert testimony. In response we held a press conference on the lawn, watch here. Seriously, go to the Facebook page and look at all the crazy cool stuff we did today, it’s off the hook.
In court we learned a lot about what we already know. Michael Foster went to North Dakota and shut down the Keystone Pipeline! We heard from a manager from TransCanada’s liquids pipeline control center. Emily Johnston says he looks like Clark Kent, and he does. He’s cute and well suited and exudes a friendly Canadian air. He’s also been flanked all week by TransCanada’s lawyers, both with stern visage.Read more
Today, filmmaker Deia Schlosberg’s footage from the action was admitted into evidence. The prosecution’s choice of video was strange. They ran a sustained shot with nary a sound for twenty minutes. Nothing but scene of road, barren rock, and dirt field. Near the end Michael and Sam walk by. The jury tries to keep necks craned dutifully towards the screen. Staring uncomfortably, one juror scratched his head, another looks perplexed at the prosecution, another drops their head into a ready nap position.
The attorneys are adversarial. The jury was excused several times for legal rigamarole. After lunch, things got hot when the arresting officer gave testimony. The prosecution tried to paint alarm by asking the witness about his experience with a pipeline explosion he responded to in Minnesota, 2007. Relevance?
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.”Read more