Arthur, Anna (two of my children, both of whom are students at AB-Tech) and I endured our third full trial on the AB-Tech trespass charges yesterday. The results were not good. What sunk our ship was the incredible instructions to the jury from Judge Dennis Winner that virtually guaranteed a guilty verdict. Winner refused to give the jury the instructions on the law that Judge Baker gave them in our first State Superior Court trial earlier this year. Those instructions said that to be found guilty of trespass on public property we [as individuals] must have engaged in conduct that nullified the implied consent we had to be on the property.
However, Judge Winner’s instructions were that if any members of the “group” that were protesting engaged in improper conduct, then ALL members were guilty.
A female security guard (an obese one who could not in court conceal her emotion toward us for bringing the images of aborted babies to her campus) testified that one of the Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust gave her a belly/chest bump. Since Anna, Arthur and I had not seen this at the time, and had not even heard of it until she testified yesterday (she was not present in the other trials), and since we had no part in it, we could not contradict her testimony. And yet, despite no evidence whatsoever that we three had done anything to justify our arrest, according to the judge we were guilty. This is basically what the judge said to the jury!
I told a reporter for the Mountain Xpress that to the judge, we were guilty by association. The concept of guilt by association is roundly rejected in multiple U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The cases I read deal with membership in Communist organizations.
To illustrate his opinion, Judge Winner gave an example. If a group enters a store, he said outside of the hearing of the jury, and one of the members of the group robs the store, then all the members were guilty. How silly. So, if one of the members of the group slips a pack of chewing gum into his pocket and none of the other members knew of it, and none of the others heard about it later, then they all are guilty? The judge himself, after giving the example, quietly muttered about how this did not apply to us, but he did not supply another example.
The jury is always told to follow the judge’s instruction regardless of what they think about it. Juries of course can completely disregard the judge if they wish, but the general population is so devoid of independent thinkers, that in our case a guilty verdict was a foregone conclusion. Interestingly, the only person brought up to the jury who might have helped us had been dismissed from duty by the prosecution. He was a Warren Wilson College professor! I had been concerned about a professorfrom such a liberal school, but after the judge’s instructions, he might have been able to lead the jury in a more intelligent direction.
We, our attorney and us, could have done a better job of showing separation between us and the Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust. For example, when I heard that the Survivors were coming to this area, I asked Kortney, their Director, if they had a written Code of Conduct. My position was that we would only participate with the group if they abided by a code similar to what we use with the Genocide Awareness Project. Kortney had assured me that they were completely peaceful in their approach. We did not bring this out to the jury and I think we dropped the ball. But we only had the lunch hour yesterday to think.
During sentencing Judge Winner embarrassed me by making several references to his familiarity with my work, to his personal acquaintance with me, and to my outspoken nature when it comes to abortion. (Winner had been a NC State Senator.) He said, “It’s been 20 years, hasn’t it? He [Mr. Hunt} has not aged that much.” I could not speak without an invitation from the judge, so I just nodded and grinned stupidly. [I don't want to rub it in too much, but the judge said that he once taught Constitutional Law classes or a class at UNC-A, but he said he couldn't remember anything from it.]
Anna, Arthur, and I were sentenced to 10 days in jail, suspended. We were given one year unsupervised probation and told that we could not go onto the campus of AB-Tech except for standard educational purposes. In addition, each of us must pay court costs, which is $200 per person, I think. Anna and Arthur were not given this penalty, but I was also fined $200.
After the trial, the judge said to our attorney that his instructions to the jury, “had done it.”
We are thinking of appealing our conviction, the judge’s instructions on “the law,” and his denial of our motion to dismiss based on constitutional grounds (on AB Tech’s written policy on it’s face and as applied to us) to the NC Court of Appeals. This is the very court that issued the opinion we asked the judge to give to the jury as instructions on the law regarding trespass on public property.