Wednesday, 01 November 2000 21:33

Judge Declares Mistrial in Case Of 6 Protesters

Written by The New York Times

A judge in District of Columbia Superior Court declared a mistrial today in the case of six people seeking Congressional voting rights for the city.

The defendants, Steven Donkin, Hebby Hannahan, Bette Hoover, Queen Mother ShemeYah, Tanya Snyder and Karen Szulgit, were arrested on July 26 on charges of disorderly conduct after protesting the appropriations bill for the District of Columbia from the House gallery. Prosecutors said the defendants tried to disrupt the proceedings by yelling from the gallery. Defense lawyers asserted that the defendants had no intention of disrupting proceedings and did not protest until the floor debate had ended.

The jury deliberated four hours on Monday before handing down a guilty verdict just minutes before the court was to close for the day. But during a polling of the jurors, one said he had voted guilty “with reservations.”

When asked by Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby if he felt the prosecution had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the juror said, “Not in my opinion.”

After jurors deliberated nine more hours yesterday without reaching a verdict, Judge Blackburne-Rigsby declared a mistrial and ordered a new trial to begin on Feb. 8.

The defendants described themselves in testimony as staunch supporters of autonomy for the District of Columbia. Prosecutors asserted that the defendants tried to disrupt a July 26 session of Congress by loudly chanting the phrases “Free D.C.” and “D.C. votes no.”

Over the objections of prosecutors, the judge ruled that the phrases would not improperly sway the jury of District residents and could be introduced at the trial.

Voters in the District of Columbia elect their own city officials, but the House of Representatives has the final say on the District’s budget. Although its voters elect a delegate to the House, currently Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, its representative is not allowed to vote in the full House.

If convicted, the defendants could face a six-month prison sentence and a $500 fine.

Read 733 times Last modified on Thursday, 25 April 2019 21:49

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