Day 3.1: It’s No Whodunit


The peace protesters’ trial is interesting from a legal standpoint because of the defense strategy. The Ohio law on criminal trespass forbids staying on another person’s property “without privilege to do so.”

The usual privilege is in the form of permission from the owner. But there are other kinds of privilege recognized by the law. Defense attorney Jennifer Kinsley has repeatedly used three examples in talking to the jury:

• A driver speeding to a hospital emergency room with a wounded or stricken passenger has the privilege of exceeding the speed limit.

• A police officer buying illegal drugs has the privilege of breaking the law in order to catch violators.

• A doctor performing emergency surgery without the usual consent forms has the privilege of necessity.

It is this latter privilege — the need to act in order to save human lives — that our jury must consider, according to attorney Bill Gallagher. In his opening statement yesterday, Gallagher said, “The question before you is going to be about the word ‘privilege.’ ”

We believed we could save human lives by convincing Congressman Chabot to sign the Congressional Declaration of Peace. That is why we remained in his office after we were directed to leave. People were being killed in Iraq, and we were there in an effort to stop it; we acted with the privilege of saving human lives.

City Prosecutor Jay Littner told the jury that this trial is different from most, because the facts aren’t in dispute. No police officers have testified, and none of the defendants denies the central accusation, namely that we stayed in Chabot’s office past the normal business hours.

“In some ways, this is one of the hardest cases I’ve ever done,” Littner said. “But it’s simple in that there’s not a lot of dispute about what happened.”

In that sense, the case comes down to why we did what we did.

— Gregory Flannery

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