22 February 2003
The symbolic disarmament of the MM III at N-8 on high alert is a warning to the nation and the world that these horrific weapons are evil and criminal in the hands of any nation.
The motions hearing concluded without any rulings by Judge Blackburn on the key motions: the prosecution's motion in limine and the motions to dismiss offered by the defense. During the afternoon session both professor Ved Nanda of Denver University an professor Francis Boyle of Illinois University gave expert testimony on the legal questions concerning, imminent danger, weapons of mass destruction, genocidal weapons, humanitarian limits on warfare, the catastrophic environmental dimensions of nuclear weapons and the relationship of the International rules of warfare and the United States federal code including Army Field Manual 27-10. One of the highlights of testimony given by both was their response to the question: "In your opinion did the defendants act legally on October 6 at silo N-8. Both Nanda and Boyle answered without hesitation or qualification, "yes".
We were told that the judge had earlier ruled against the motions by the prosecution to prohibit the use of the title "Sister" in addressing the defendants and to deny them the right to pray in the courtroom. It is unclear if the latter ruling applies when the jury is present. I expect a more detailed legal summary of the day's proceedings from Anabel Dwyer, advisory counsel for Ardeth. I will pass that on when I get it.
All three were very upbeat. There was a relaxed attitude toward conversation with them during breaks in the hearing. For the first time there was a limited chance for some face to face visiting. They still almost never see the light of day. Jackie was fighting a chest cold so was a held back by that. They were pleased that at its peak we had the courtroom full of supporters (about 50). Among them was one of their former cell mates.
22 February 2003
Echoes of war past and rumbles of possible conflict to come stoked the drama when three Roman Catholic nuns appeared in federal court Friday for a hearing on
their upcoming trial for a resistance action they staged in October at a nuclear missile site in northeast Colorado.
Carol Gilbert 55, Jackie Hudson, 68 and Ardeth Platte 66, have been held since shortly after their Oct. 6 arrests at the tiny Clear Creek County Jail in Georgetown. The sisters have cooled their heels there since the Federal Detention Center in Englewood can't accommodate women.
And, although they could have been free months ago on personal recognizance bonds, they have stayed put because they decline to sign a promise they will stay clear of further legal trouble.
But they appeared no worse for wear after nearly five months of confinement and were met Friday by several dozen fellow pacifists who crowded the court benches to show their support.
The nuns, in orange jumpsuits, white long underwear and sneakers, were forbidden by court rules to touch anyone in the gallery. But that didn't prevent them from exchanging bows with the Rev. Nobuko Miyake-Stoner, superintendent of the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Miyake-Stoner had written them a moving letter in jail, and the minister wiped a tear from her eye as she accepted words of gratitude from the nuns. "Your actions speak so loud and clearly, what God is calling you to do," Miyale-Stoner told them softly.
In the hall, she explained she wanted to pay her respect. "My family lived less than a mile from the epicenter when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima," she said. "By a miracle, they all survived. Seven years later, I was born. I feel that my life is a gift. Whenever something threatens the quality of life or undermines the quality of life, itself, I need to speak out."
The nuns, operating under the umbrella of Sacred Earth and Space Plowshares II, a national movement for nuclear disarmament, trespassed early the morning of Oct. 6 on to the site of a Minuteman III nuclear missile site in northeastern Weld County. There as they chanted and prayed, they allegedly poured what is believed to have been their blood on the silo missile lid, in the shape of crosses.
They are slated for trial March 31 on charges of damaging federal property, and of injuring, interfering with or attempting to injure national defense material. Two of the sisters have lawyers and a third is representing herself. Their defenses largely are linked to a theory this was a crime of necessity. They say America, by arming itself with hundreds of first-strike capability nuclear missiles, is in violation of the United Nations charter, numerous treaties and long established, internationally accepted rules of war.
More than once, a defendant or her lawyer pointed to America's nuclear arsenal and the fact that recent reports indicate the Bush administration has considered scenarios where a nuclear response could apply to Iraq.
DENVER — Three nuns accused of a Weld County missile-site raid appeared in federal court Friday, arguing that international law allows citizens to rise up to prevent government evil.
The sisters — Carol Gilbert, 55, Jackie Hudson, 68, and Ardeth Platte, 66 — walked into the U.S. District courtroom wearing handcuffs and orange jumpsuits, as any inmate would.
They sang a hymn and chanted “Oh, God, help us to be peacemakers in a hostile world.”
The trio doesn’t deny they entered the Minuteman III missile site near Greeley on Oct. 6. They say it was civil resistance when they cut a chain-link fence, hammered at a silo and train tracks and painted a cross on the tracks with their own blood.
“Individuals, your honor, are obligated to abide by international law and ensure that their country does so also,” testified Ved Nanda, a University of Denver international law professor.
Each woman is charged with one count of willful injury, interference or obstruction of national defense and one count of causing more than $1,000 in damage to U.S. property. They are being held at the Georgetown jail until the trial, which starts March 31.
Defense attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn to dismiss the charges, arguing international law and that grand juries do not reflect the population.
Blackburn did not rule on the motions.
The Nuremberg trials after World War II established that citizens are obligated to violate domestic laws to prevent their country from committing war crimes, Nanda said.
In this case, the nuns say they believed the United States was nearing war with Iraq and would launch Minuteman III missiles.
International law defines national defense as taking action if there’s an imminent threat, making pre-emptive strikes illegal, Nanda said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Brown said the Nuremberg defense has never been used successfully in the United States, and the defense isn’t available to the nuns because there wasn’t an imminent threat of war or missile launch.
Several dozen Minuteman III silos are in Colorado. The bomb is 20 times as powerful as the atomic weapon dropped on two sites in Japan during World War II, testified Francis Boyle, a University of Illinois international law professor.
The women are members of the Dominican order. Platte and Gilbert are members of Baltimore-based Jonah House, a group that advocates disarmament. Hudson is from Washington and is also a member of a disarmament group.
The hearing attracted nearly 50 people, many wearing buttons denouncing war.
In 1986, Sister Cecily Jones of Denver was convicted of trespassing after she and five others sneaked into what is now Lockheed Martin and replaced the company’s corporate sign with one that read “stop military madness.”
She served five days in jail — far less than the 30 years Gilbert, Hudson and Platte face if they are convicted.
“I’m just interested in their work, and I came to be supportive of them. I admire them for their courage,” she said.