Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Deacon Georgia Walker ARCWP - Commentary on Criminal Justice System and Witness for Non-Violence/ Challenging Drone Warfare in a U.S. Court by Kathy Kelly,

The following article was written by Kathy Kelly to briefly describe how our arraignment hearing unfolded on Tuesday.  This first part is my reflection. 
Deacon Georgia Walker in gray jacked seated next to Kathy Kelly , Voices for Creative Nonviolence
This morning I am still stunned to have experienced the way in which our so called justice system works.  My primary ministry is with men and women who are coming out of jail or prison or in some other way caught up in the justice system.  Daily, I hear of the injustices that many of them must endure. 
I am always quite aware that 95% of the criminal convictions in the United States are a result of “plea bargains” rather than actual trials.  Many, many innocent individuals take pleas in order to just get it over with and to get on with their lives.  Today, I took a step to becoming more “literate” about their world and I feel profoundly humbled and privileged to have walked a bit in their shoes.
When we first arrived in court with our lawyer and our supporters, we were offered a “plea bargain”…if we would plead guilty, the military prosecutor would recommend that the judge sentence us to one month of prison and a $500 fine.  In a preliminary opening to the hearing…the judge carefully informed us of our “rights”.  He then let us go back and confer with our lawyer.

Kathy and I could not say that we were guilty.  So we asked our attorney to ask the prosecutor if we could plead “no contest”.  He said he would accept that plea and would then ask the judge to sentence us to three months in prison and $500 fine. 
Back before the judge again…he said that he would not permit us to plead “no contest”.  He once again informed us of our “rights” to take the original plea of guilty or go to trial.  The prosecutor would then ask for six months in prison and $500 fine.  Note that as you exercise your rights that the threat of punishment keeps increasing.  As Kathy and I sat there at the table before the judge, we looked at each other like “deers caught in the headlights” and realized that in a matter of 18 seconds we went from one to three to six possible months of confinement…just by exercising our rights.  And we are  educated, privileged white women with an actual lawyer by our sides.  No wonder the men and women with whom I minister so often take the plea bargains even when they know themselves to be innocent!
So our trial date is set for Dec 10th…please pray for all that face decisions such as these each day!  by Deacon Georgia Walker, ARCWP
On October 7, 2014, Kathy Kelly and Georgia Walker appeared before Judge Matt Whitworth in Jefferson City, MO, federal court on a charge of criminal trespass to a military facility. The charge was based on their participation , at Whiteman Air Force Base, in a June 1st 2014 rally protesting drone warfare. Kelly and Walker attempted to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the Base Commander, encouraging him to stop cooperating with any further usage of unmanned aerial vehicles, (drones), for surveillance and attacks.
The prosecutor, USAF Captain Daniel Saunders, said that if Kelly and Walker would plead guilty to the charge, he would seek a punishment of one month in prison and a $500 fine. Kelly and Walker told the prosecutor that they could accept a “no contest” plea but were not willing to plead guilty. The prosecutor then said he would recommend a three month prison sentence and a $500 fine. The judge refused to accept a “no contest” plea. Kelly and Walker then requested a trial which has been set for December 10, 2014.
Brian Terrell, who also attended the hearing, has previously been tried before Judge Whitworth on the same charge. In October of 2012, Whitworth sentenced him to the maximum penalty of six months in prison. His co-defendant, Ron Faust, also went to trial and was initially sentenced to five years probation which was later reduced to one year. Mark Kenney, also a co-defendant, had pled guilty and received a four month sentence.
Kathy Kelly noted that drone strikes on October 7, 2014 killed seven people, in Pakistan and that this is the third day in a row of drone attacks in Pakistan’s Waziristan area. On October 6th, eight people were killed and six wounded. Today also marks the thirteenth year of U.S. war in Afghanistan, a country which was considered, in 2013, to be the epicenter of drone warfare.
“I feel we’re compelled by our conscience, “ Georgia Walker told a gathering of 35 people in Kansas City, the previous evening. “We’re compelled by our own spirituality, to keep speaking up and to keep getting people to know that silence is complicity. We have to speak out to say ‘Not in my Name.’”
“I’m sure that Georgia and I didn’t commit a crime,” said Kathy Kelly. “We tried to send out an alarm about a crime that’s being committed at the base. Innocent people, including children are killed by the drone strikes.”
Kelly and Walker later met with supporters and attorneys to discuss plans for a vigorous defense on December 10th, International Human Rights Day.


Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org)

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