Day 5 - Verdict


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

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