Will free speech arrest merit a jury trial?

COLORADO SPRINGS- I figured our Motions Hearing today would be a perfunctory affair. Wrong! The city is denying there is more evidence, they want us to waive our right to a speedy trial, and, they asked the judge to deny us a jury trial. Can they do that? The judge will give his written decision by Friday. On whether we have a Constitutional Right to a Trial by Jury.

A trial by a jury of one’s peers
It seems between the first appearance at which we were granted a continuance, then the arraignment where our attorneys set a pretrial date, neither of the judges asked about a jury trial. We entered a plea of not-guilty, but were never asked if we wanted a jury trial, nor asked to deposit a $25 payment. It wasn’t until the pretrial conference that the judge looked over the paperwork and noticed no deposit had been made to reserve a jury trial. A motions hearing was scheduled, where among our requests, we would have to ask for a jury trial.

Our attorneys cited precedent today, that even in the event of attorney negligence, the right to a trial by jury is considered so important that it’s been granted to defendants who’ve previously declined it. Regardless whose mistake, they argued, Peter and myself were clearly never asked and could under no circumstance be considered to have waived the right.

The city on the other hand explained that precedent in municipal court has long established that a trial by jury in petty offenses is not a Constitutional Right, and instead is a “Statutory Right.” Meaning that if the defendants have not followed every provision of the statute, they sacrifice their opportunity for a trial by jury.

Judge Hayden W. Kane II declared that he would issue a written decision on the matter, by the end of the week. This move does not look encouraging to us. The judge faced two very competent defense attorneys and perhaps didn’t dare rule against them in light of rebuttals they might have offered.

Evidence withheld from Discovery
Through discovery, the city has offered that the only evidence they have to show us, besides officers’ accounts, is a hand held video with unintelligible sound. Nothing else. At today’s motions hearing we proffered affidavits to the effect that men were observed with parabolic dishes above the Hampton Inn. As well, some CSPD officers observed the arrests from the basement of the World Arena, indicating that surveillance footage would be available from there.

The city has denied any of this exists, and in making the argument that cameras don’t always record their footage, the city lawyer explained that she learned policemen were observing from a van across the street, but that their cameras were only capturing a live feed, and weren’t recording. Whether you believe that or not, in either case those “witnesses” had not been revealed to us in discovery.

Peter and I are quite interested in video evidence because it was very plain to us that we hadn’t stepped over any tape. Surveillance footage would show that there was no division between a “booster zone” within the “free speech zone.” Audio will also demonstrate that our conversation with police was amicable and betrayed our earnest interpretation of where our speech was permitted.

But the judge appeared to give the rather novice city lawyer all the slack, offering her ten days to get the evidence to the defendants. If the judge decides we don’t have the right to a trial by jury, our lawyers will have to appeal. To my knowledge this will spoil our opportunity to have a speedy trial. A trial date has been set for August 29.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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3 Responses to Will free speech arrest merit a jury trial?

  1. Avatar tony logan says:

    So the city is so confident of its case that it wants to deny you two a trial? I am being facetious here now.

    The city police and its attorneys have absolutely no shame, and neither does the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission which has done absolutely nothing to mobilize any support for either of you. In fact, its politically incompetent Board director actually was so lacking in solidarity, that she herself called the police on you and several others (including myself) for supposed trespassing on the sacred sidewalk in front of the PPJPC building!

    But what about Peter? The least they could do, this PPJPC misleadership clique, is to mobilize themselves to defend Peter. I guess he is guilty by association in their eyes? Peter is only the total epitomy of nonviolent dissent, for he is a Mennonite who wouldn’t hurt even a fly. Hardly Mr. Violence here.

    What a shameful chapter in the history of this sick militarized city! The city government and its police are like a bunch of pit bulls. They are pathetic and trying to deny you and Peter a trial by jury shows how much they really want to act with total impunity when it comes to political dissent in Colorado Springs.

    I think, too, that the city police have played a really subversive role in their meetings with the paid office fools now runniing the PPJPC. They intervened in the internal politics of our main Colorado Spring’s Peace group. Now one has to seriously ask themselves whether they have not infiltrated the group and been wrecking the group with their political surveillance and ‘monitors’?

  2. Avatar ohwilleke says:

    Under the U.S. Constitution, outside federal court, there is a right to a jury trial when the maximum sentence exceeds six months, but not otherwise. State law is more generous, but I am no expert on the preservation and/or waiver of jury trial rights.

  3. Avatar tony logan says:

    In this 3 strikes and you are out world of America today it is criminal to deny a jury trial to anybody that is facing even misdemeanor charges.

    Much of American legal proceeding now are done without even the smallest semblance of due process. Get a traffic ticket, and you are presumed guilty until you can perhaps spend the money on a lawyer and perhaps get a semblance of unbiased hearing. Cops routinely tell people to just pay up since it will cost more to you to go to court and actually plead their case.

    Another case where people are routinely considered guilty without any process is with the credit laws, where companies routinely are allowed to bash your credit record without any ability for the individuals to defend themselves through a legal process. These are decisions about credit reliability that rob people of hundreds of millions of dollars, jobs, and the ability to purchase their own houses.

    Counterpunch now has a commentary to subscribers where it mentions that over 90% of convictions in courts are in actuality forced ‘plea bargains’, where the legal system forces people to give up their rights to a jury trial. Our legal system, just like our medical system, is currently an international embarrassment but Americans seem too divorced from reality to even seem to know it.

    The way the US legal system deals with ‘drugs’ and parental rights is still more disgrace, as the legal proceedings in Texas against the El Dorado group of Mormons underlined, as do the drug wars now being exported to Mexico and all points south. What a mess!

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