Justice for Lynne Stewart!
Notes from the trial...
Sunday, June 27, 2004
I know I’m late with the Journal but it’s been a pretty hectic week - court-wise, media-wise and work-wise (yes, I’m still making Friday client appearances but now on a “cameo” basis!)
We started the week with the final jury selection. It was a very intense process taking many hours - pure stress as the rounds were completed and we were finally whittled down from 79 to 12 regular jurors and 6 alternates. Utilizing a jury expert Robert Hirschorn of Houston, Texas and the accumulated wisdom and experience of 6 lawyers (no 7) because I should include myself as a full participant in this) we were more than pleased with the result. We have 9 Manhattanites and one person from the Bronx, Rockland and Westchester. We have 8 women and 4 African men, mostly older, including two African Americans and one Latino from the Dominican Republic. A number of them are self-employed (software engineer, retired illustrator) others work as a shipping clerk, a textile designer, an editor and a hospital worker. Most hold college degrees and most important to us, they all seem to be people who can be fair and listen for the defense nuances, at all times.
Tuesday, June 22
The Jury’s ability to listen openly without prejudice was clearly evident when the opening statements occupied the day. First, though one of the sworn jurors had an attack of conscience. A gay architect, Yale graduate living on Manhattan’s upper west side “realized” that he hadn’t told us his brother was “flyer planes for the USA” to places like Entebbe and Saudi Arabia. He “realized” that he felt part of the “government team” and couldn’t be fair. He was dismissed - but gave us a shiver. How many other stealth jurors are there, lying in wait? If he hadn’t come clean . . .
The Government’s opening statement followed. I remarked after the two hours of non-stop anti-terrorist harangue that I felt like the girl in the Exorcist - the spin was so intense!! And of course, it was so sensational, that the media just lapped it up. Once again I found myself on the Courthouse steps trying to undo all the lies and innuendoes. Most serious to me was the clever way in which they claimed the incitement to violence but never revealed that absolutely nothing violent ever happened in Egypt following the press release or any other “communication”.
In the afternoon Michael Tigar opened for me; immediately debunking (“bursting their bubble”, were his words) some of the more outrageous of their claims, and projecting our defense - the “courageous, vigorous, responsible, responsive lawyer” whose career is about justice not terror. He was followed by David Ruhnke for Mohammed Yousry the translator. Using a computer generated PowerPoint, David portrayed his completely “innocent” client to the jury as the PhD candidate, who has lived as a citizen in the United States for over 20 years, who was a good natured and always conscientious worker. For the attorneys on the Sheik’s case. Both Tigar and Ruhnke mentioned Ramsey Clark’s testimony to come and also that the jury would hear from me and from Mohammed in the defense case.
Wednesday, June 23
The following morning, Wednesday June 23, Kenneth Paul opened for Ahmad Sattar; laying out a chronology of events in the Middle East and Egypt that would give rise to Ahmed’s political reactions but maintaining that the Staten Island postal worker with four kids was no m ore a terrorist than Mickey Mouse. He also challenged the Government to explain how they allowed this “dangerous terrorist” to be walking the streets all these years?!
After Ken’s opening the first Government witness was called, Patrick Fitzgerald. He had gone from being the second seat for the Government in the Sheik’s trial in 1995 to prosecuting the Embassy Bombings and being appointed by Bush with the position of U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois (Chicago). Last year, he relieved John Ashcroft of a potential Hot Potato of “conflict” when he took over the investigation of the “outing” of Valerie Plainnas, the CIA agent as punishment for Staffer Wilson’s deflection on nuclear material for weapons of mass destruction.
Fitzgerald was in our trial to discuss the Government’s initial decision to put in place Special Administrative Measures governing the Sheik’s access to the World and also what occurred at the time of the press release. Almost immediately, the Government plans were foiled when they attempted to use Fitzgerald as a witness to introduce a series of photographs showing the Sheik in Afghanistan in the 1980's. In response to Tigar’s questions, Fitzgerald had never seen the pictures before “last night” (Wednesday, June 23) and could only “guess” as to their time and place. The pictures were NOT admitted into evidence.
Later on, he was asked to explain the decision not to pursue a criminal investigation after the press release in June of 2000. Knowing that his answer would be pure hearsay, the defense objected. The objection was sustained. The Government then proceeded to whine, for about 20 minutes, trying to wheedle Judge Koeltl out of that decision. He was not impressed and they ultimately ended the day without Fitzgerald taking the stand or the Government regaining its composure.
Thursday, June 24
Pat Fitzgerald would not be available till Monday (He was interviewing President Bush in the Oval office, who had his lawyer with him! It’s OK for the President-select but not for the criminalized Sheik Omar!) The day in Court was forgettable. A short witness in the morning against whom the defense team scored some “palpable hits” followed by unmitigated boredom, so intense, that the jury put away their notepads and pens, as Asst. U.S. Attorney Morvillo and Barkow read aloud from sermons delivered by the Sheik in 1990 and 1991. (The theory here was it would prove that Lynne Stewart by listening to the speeches in the 1995 trial knew that her client was a “terrorist”) All that was proven is that the Government really doesn’t get it about keeping a jury attentive and interested and as that other Stewart woman defendant would say “that’s a good thing.”!!
More next week
Monday - Fitzgerald returns and faces the cross to kill of Tigar. C’mon down if your local or you can read the whole transcript - from Openings by a link on this website.
On a personal note - we were pushed out by our landlord and now are at 350 Broadway - same zip, fax and phone. In fact as I write this journal entry I am using a box filled with files to write on surrounded by a moving company and friends/workers helping with the move.
The Times and Washington Post printed interviews on Monday and Tuesday. An OpEd piece by Attorney Gerry Shargel (was in the LA Times. I was on Democracy Now! on Thursday morning with Amy at the Firehouse.
A word from the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee
This blog journal was reported in an article in the New York Sun this past week. (We’ll let you know about it since I don’t know anyone who really reads that paper) Among other things the Sun reported said that the blog hadn’t had any “hits” on it. This leads us to clarify the present role of this “blog” on our website. We are using the blog function to be able to provide a regular journal from Lynne Stewart on the trial. We are not set up for a “chat” blog and Lynne really has no time for “chat” right now. As things evolve in the future and this website remains a place focusing on the right to defend and be defended we may well add the chat function. For now success is not measured by the number of “hits” to this blog and we don’t count them.
Remember justice for Lynne Stewart is justice for all of us. Please come to court and keep the light of day shining on this case.
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
After a few weeks of working my way through over 500 potential jurors, summoned to judge my case; on Thursday, June 4th at 6 p.m. - the final field was winnowed down to 78 Persons. All of them have promised, under oath, to be fair and impartial. Other than that, they are a diverse group mirroring Manhattan, the Bronx, small communities and cities in Westchester and Rockland Counties and more rural locales in Putnam. There are 38 women and 40 men. They range in age from 23 to 79. Ethnically diverse - immigrants from Italy, Ecuador, China and the Philippines. Racially Diverse - African Americans, Carribean Americans, Slavery Survivor Americans, Orientals, Semites, and Caucasian European Americans. They are of differing sexual orientations. Educationally - there is a Quaker biophysicist doing medical research and a young Harlem native born working at the USPO in as she works her way through college.
Many of these potential jurors have read and know about Lynne Stewart and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. Some have lost friends, acquaintances and relatives at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Others disqualified themselves or were challenged or excused by the court because they couldn’t “afford” to be out of work, out of salary for a 4 to 6 month trial (Ah, Capitalism! once again raises its ugly head!) A few were visibly frightened or could not deal with a “terrorist” case. Others expressed their repugnance for John Ashcroft, racial profiling of people of color (including Muslims), and the government listening to attorney-client conversations.
Also in this jury pool, there were people who just “wanted” to get on as a respite, with pay, from there everyday routine - retirees, prison guards (2), civil servants and who knew all the “right” answers.
From this diversity in American of 2004 - where so many of the people are involved by a manipulative government into emotionally following the so-called “American” way, that we must choose a jury that understands not only that it can acquit but that it can also proudly return with that verdict to their community.
So, on June 21 the 78 will return to the old federal Courthouse on Foley Square and 53 of their names will be drawn at random. (This number represents a total, including government and defense peremptory challenges, necessary to come down to a jury of 12 people plus 6 alternates.) That jury will decide my future and perhaps that of the 1, 4, 5 and 6 Amendments.
So, invoke whatever God, Great Spirit, gods, goddesses or Spirituality you rely on. Get the auras of Joe Hill, John Brown, Mother Jones, Harriet Tubman, Clarence Darrow and the countless others who fought for American justice to hover in that courtroom. And get yourselves, if you can, weary though you may be, as we all are(!), down, over, out to the Courthouse starting June 21 - Jury Selection, June 22 - Openings and Government case begins.
I’ll be there for 4 to 6 months. Bring a cushion and Bring Hope and Encouragement and Righteousness! We Can Win!!!
06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004
07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004
08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004
10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004