JON KATZ, P.C.

Attorney at Law

LAWYER FOR JUSTICE

PRACTICING LAW IN MARYLAND, WASHINGTON, D.C., AND VIRGINIA

STATE OF MARYLAND v. PLOWSHARES DEFENDANTS

 

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The Plowshares Defendants (Philip Berrigan, Susan Crane, Stephen M. Kelly, S.J, and Elizabeth Walz) were arrested during their December 1999 protest action against the military's use of weapons containing depleted uranium. The Defendants describe their action as  Plowshares work, from the biblical passage (Isaiah 2:4) about  beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Jon Katz from JON KATZ, P.C.., defended Stephen Kelly, S.J., and served as standby counsel to pro se Defendants Philip Berrigan and Elizabeth Walz. Ramsey Clark from New York and Anabel Dwyer from Michigan defended Susan Crane and served as standby counsel with Jon Katz for the pro se Defendants. 

 

The Plowshares' case went to trial on March 20, 2000, Baltimore County Circuit Court, Towson, Maryland, with criminal charges of property destruction (against two A-10 warplanes), conspiracy to destroy property, trespassing, and assault (charged against Defendant Susan Crane only). At the March 13, 2000, pretrial motions hearing, the judge granted the Defendants' motion to dismiss the sabotage and sabotage conspiracy counts, thereby reducing the Defendants' prison exposure by twenty years (see our winning motion here). At the close of the prosecutors' trial evidence, the judge granted the Defendants' motion to dismiss the trespassing charge. After the judge repeatedly refused to permit any substantive testimony from the Defendants' fact and expert witness on depleted uranium, the Defendants stopped participating in the trial, and the judge ordered the courtroom cleared of the Defendants' many supporters who stood up and joined in singing a protest song. The jury found the Defendants guilty of property destruction and conspiracy to destroy property, and was unable to unanimously decide on the assault charge, which the prosecutor subsequently dismissed. 

 

December 7, 2002, update: Sadly, Phil Berrigan departed the planet on December 6, 2002. See Jon Katz's tribute to Phil here

 

Addendum: May 16, 2006: 

Trial judges cannot exclude witnesses on mere anticipation of inadmissible testimony.

The heat of trial battle can be sizzling enough without a judge asking numerous questions to determine whether a criminal defendant's intended witness will present admissible testimony. For practical purposes alone, judges should let the defense witness be on the witness stand to rule on the admissibility of each question and answer, rather than demanding a proffer of the witness's expected testimony, particularly seeing that some witnesses do not make themselves sufficiently available in terms of time or candor for the defense lawyer to know in advance what the witness will say under oath. The Maryland Court of Appeals recently ruled that defense witnesses may not be excluded from testifying merely because the defense is unable to present a proffer of admissible testimony. The case is Kelly v. Maryland  ____ Md. ___, No. 49, Sept. Term 2005 (2006).

 

Another benefit of this Kelly ruling is to encourage trial judges to keep an open mind about the admissibility of witness testimony, which, of course, does not guarantee that the witness's substantive testimony will be ruled admissible. For instance, in the Plowshares depleted uranium trial, the trial judge in advance of trial granted the prosecutor's motion to exclude our depleted uranium expert Douglas Rokke, our epidemiology expert Rosalie Bertell, and our international law expert Francis Boyle. The views of Dr. Bertell and international law professor Francis Boyle on this witness exclusion are here. We put Dr. Rokke on the witness stand, anyway, both in an effort to convince the judge to permit his expert testimony and to show the jury that we were making our best efforts to present expert testimony of the scourge of depleted uranium that led the defendants to hammer on two warplanes designed to fire depleted uranium bullets. No sooner did I put Dr. Rokke on the witness stand than the judge repeatedly sustained every objection other than his name and where he worked. I then said, "Because I keep hearing 'sustained', I have no more questions." Once Dr. Rokke left the courtroom, the four defendants stood up in opposition to the judge's refusal to allow Dr. Rokke's substantive testimony, defendant Susan Crane proclaimed that "We cannot put on a defense about the dangers of depleted uranium and our rights and duties under international law," and continued, concluding that "We will not participate in what amounts to a legal gag order." Defendant Stephen Kelly, S.J., recited the day's bible passage. The remaining two defendants turned their back to the judge. The many supporters in the courtroom stood and sang "Courage, brother, you are not alone. I will guide you on the way home." The judge cleared the courtroom, and the defendants refused to return. 

 

To conclude this digression, working with and defending the four Plowshares defendants, and interacting with their supporters to this very day, was one of the most fulfilling and meaningful experiences of my life and professional career. Whether or not I agree with all their views or their actions, they are guided by the courage of their convictions, motivated by pure caring for everyone (including opponents), and, even in jail, focus on achieving a just and peaceful world. All four of the Plowshares defendants are great people. It was also a true honor and wonderful experience working as co-counsel with Ramsey Clark. No matter the efforts of some (or many, perhaps) to marginilize his politics, Ramsey is a gentle and caring rock in any sea of turmoil. I never heard him say an unkind word about anybody, not even about J. Edgar Hoover, nor did I ever see his calm undone. In reply to my question about Mr. Hoover, Ramsey said he felt Mr. Hoover meant well, and did not have vicious purposes. Ramsey seems to follow the example of the Dalai Lama, who talks to everyone the same, regardless of their social or professional situation. 

 

For additional information about the Plowshares, visit: 

- Jon Katz, P.C.'s Successful Motion to Dismiss the Sabotage Counts

- Philip Berrigan on Democracy Now

- Susan Crane

- Stephen M. Kelly Interview

- Elizabeth Walz

 

For representation of activists, please contact partner Jon Katz

 

 

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JONATHAN L. KATZ  (Admitted in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia). On parle francais

 

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