In a rather unexpected shortening of trial based on what we were prepared for, the defense rested its case on Thursday and closing arguments began Friday morning. The prosecution began at 9 am and badgered on until around 10:30 or 11 a.m. Lee-Dixon took the entire floor, displaying a power point presentation attempting to connect the dots between the broad span of “evidence” they have brought forth to the jury. Among the graphics displayed over and over again throughout the ugly powerpoint were photos of tattoos and fitted hats, as if to imply that the style choices of the defendants are admissible evidence of criminal activity. Nevertheless, they made their points, elaborating on how these charges should amount to a guilty verdict for RICO, even though their main arguments rested on the idea that the defendants are “latin kings,” which is neither a claim anyone is really arguing against, nor is it illegal to be a member of an organization– formal or informal. In classic between-the-lines prosecution, we are to believe these young men of color should be locked up, some for life, because they are a threat to their “own communities” and “regular citizens” because of their lifestyles and associations.
Lead defense attorney Michael Patrick, representing Jorge Cornell, was allotted longer time than the other defense attorneys at around 50 minutes. This uneven division in closing argument time is due to the fact that Jorge Cornell is facing all three counts of RICO, not just the first conspiracy count, which the other five are charged with. Patrick methodically explained the technicalities of each count of RICO, reminding the jury that their duty is to make a decision “beyond a reasonable doubt” that each and every requirement of the complex charges have been proven by the government should the jury choose to find the defendant guilty. However, more importantly, Patrick deconstructed each of the individual acts the government is proposing took place and explained how they were either entirely unfeasible as conspiracies and as crimes that took place to “futher the latin king enterprise,” rather some of the individual charges were crimes of necessity or spontaneous self-defense moves, not actions taken to further their pride and power as members of a street organization. Patrick ended strongly, discrediting the overwhelming information that was shared in cooperating witnesses testimonies, reminding the jury of how much incentive these cooperators have to embellish their stories or flat out lie for personal time reduction or due to the fact that they were paid thousands of dollars.
Brian Aus, Peaceful’s (Russell Kilfoil) attorney upped the energy in the room with a passionate defense of his client while damning and shaming the cooperators, some of whom were granted immunity due to their testimonies, and will walk free when the verdict hits. Aus excitedly pointed to the door of the courtroom as he detailed how these men literally “walked out the front door” with numerous charges still pending, while their former friends face double-digit sentences in the federal system.
The rest of the counsel continued to drive home the point that even though the Government paraded in front of the jury with 100+ witnesses on this case, that there is almost no evidence that proves any of these charges, nor a conspiracy or pattern of racketeering, save the testimony of cooperating witnesses, some of whom were paid government informants. We hope that the jury will have no doubt in their minds that it is their duty to critically assess the validity of such “evidence,” while these defendants lives are at stake.
The prosecution was allowed a fifteen-twenty minute rebuttal time, although the Judge decided to grant them fifteen extra minutes, despite that there whole argument amounted to the logic that the jury should ignore reason and evidence and make a decision based on whether or not they think these guys should be locked up because regardless they “seem like criminals.” A popular street chant comes to mind, one that we were screaming in our hearts when we heard this bullshit: “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?”
After recess, the Judge reconvened with the jury instructions and went over their duties for over an hour. Apparently printed directly on their papers they have to fill out is the reminder that they should take the incentive that cooperating witnesses had to embellish or lie directly into their decision. The jury officially began deliberation around 3:30 Friday, and asked to reconvene on Monday after 30 minutes.
The brothers are experiencing one of the longest weekends of their life but staying strong and positive. They have had to be active, relentless players in their own defense as they come against the all the ways in which this trial process is not meant to serve us. They have continuously asked us to share their gratitude with everyone who has shown up to court, written them, visited them, donated money, or showed any form of solidarity. Please be thinking of them and their families this weekend and if possible show up to court in Winston Salem on Monday. Let us also remember that Irvin and Paul will not get to “walk free” should the jury find them not-guilty as they both have state time to finish. Yet even with that knowledge, this week in visiting the both of them, they expressed their desires for their other brothers to walk free so they can continue the fight. As I left the visits both devastated and re-energized, I came across this quote from Jean Weir’s speech at their anarchist comrade’s trial recently: “They expressed solidarity in its only authentic manifestation, by continuing the struggle…each with their own means, each with their own responsibility.”