First Amendment Rights confirmed in verdict in trial for protesting the killing of Philando Castile

Roger listed victims in so many shootings of black citizens by police without accountability. He said he needed to be at the [governor’s] mansion to express his grief and desire for a better system. 

On June 14, 2018, Roger Cuthbertson (Veterans for Peace MN Chapter 27) and Mollie Wetherall were found NOT GUILTY of [1] Unlawful assembly by three or more persons with the intent to disturb or threaten public peace; [2] Public nuisance — intentionally obstructing a public highway or thoroughfare. At the time they were near the governor’s mansion in St. Paul MN where a demonstration had just taken place.

Background: On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black American, was shot and killed by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer, after being pulled over in Falcon Heights, a suburb of Saint Paul. Castile was in a car with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter when he was pulled over by Yanez and another officer.

The Defendants: Roger Cuthbertson, Mollie Wetherall

The Lawyers for the defense :  Elizabeth Hogan for Roger Cuthbertson
Andrew Hodney for Mollie Wetherall

Prosecuting Attorney:  Laura Pietan

Judge:  Robert A. Awsumb, Minnesota Second Judicial District

Here are excerpts from the trial process, written by Jo Schubert.

Day 1

We heard a synopsis of charges against Roger and Mollie: Public nuisance by obstructing a public highway or right of way; Unlawful assembly in a way to disturb the peace. Context of the time and happenings of the charges was discussed in order to give the jury that information: July 2016 in front of the governor’s mansion on Summit Ave, following the July 6 shooting of Phillando Castle by a St Anthony police officer in Falcon Heights MN.


DAY 3

Roger was sworn in and testified. Roger’s testimony was informative, emotional and heart-felt. Elizabeth Hogan skillfully led him with her questioning. Roger talked about being motivated by the killing of Philando Castile that he had learned about from the live video of the incident by girlfriend Diamond Reynolds. Roger listed victims in so many shootings of black citizens by police without accountability. He said he needed to be at the mansion to express his grief and desire for a better system.  He described the mansion area which he visited 5 or 6 times as a sacred, beautiful place to come to find a better way, He was particularly emotional when he described a sign on the fence made by the students of JJ Hill Montessori school where Philando Castile had worked that said: “We miss you Mr. Phil.”

Roger said his few interactions with police were peaceful. He was concerned to hear on the radio on July 26 that police were removing the encampment at the governor’s residence and forcing people to leave. So he went to stand with about 100 other people who were standing at Oxford and Summit, not able to get to the governor’s mansion. He held his sign that said “Police the Police” and talked to people, sometimes standing in the street, sometimes not. Roger said he heard the requests by police to leave the street, but he didn’t leave because he had a first amendment right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances. Roger quoted the First Amendment verbatim.

***

Mollie testified about the anguish of Philando Castile’s murder. She affirmed her belief that activism is a tool to help us make our society what we want it to be. Her reason for being at the governor’s mansion was to get in community and seek a better way. She talked about police negativity and hostility and the closing off of access to the mansion. She described her unjust arrest and “full body” search professed her intention to protest and commune peacefully and not to block the street.

***

Closing by prosecutor Laura Pietan: Her comments focused on efforts of the police to provide a safe place for the protestors to exercise first amendment rights and their repeated efforts to afford safety to both protestors and other citizens as they tried to keep protestors off roads and open roads to the public. Laura said that the acts of Roger and Mollie were intentional because they did not leave as requested by police.

Andrew Hodney closing statement: The police gave no alternative place for protectors to exercise their right of assembly and petition. Mollie’s intent was not to be in the street but other options were blocked. Her intent was to be peaceful.

Elizabeth Hogan closing statement: Roger intended to be at the governor’s mansion protesting. The police changed the rules midstream. They forced him to choose the street and then told him it was unlawful. Roger intended to exercise his 1st amendment right to free speech and assembly peacefully. The burden of proof is on the state for each offense beyond a reasonable doubt. These defendants did not act unreasonably. They were merely pushing the arch of the moral universe towards peace.

Next there was a discussion by the lawyers as to what should be included in the judge’s instructions to the jury which they agreed upon and submitted to the judge in written form.

***

Judge Awsumb addressed the jury with instructions and duties. He reiterated that a defendant was innocent until proven guilty and that the burden of proof was on the state. The judge reviewed the charges against Roger and Mollie: [1] Unlawful assembly by three or more persons with the intent to disturb or threaten public peace; [2] Public nuisance, intentionally obstructing a public highway or thoroughfare. He said that Roger’s and Mollie’s actions were protected under the first amendment of the constitution and that conduct could be provocative and challenging as long as it did not interfere with or obstruct rights of others


Day 4

After jury deliberation: Verdict — NOT GUILTY on both counts for both Roger and Mollie!


RELATED

Video of shooting by Diamond Reynolds, Philando’s girlfriend, who was in the car with him with daughter at the time of the shooting.

ROSARIO: A ST. PAUL VETERAN’S ARREST AT AIRPORT PROTEST ENDS IN VICTORY AT TRIAL

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2 comments

  1. beaudmj · · Reply

    Jo wrote this, right? Didn’t see her name.

    On Thu, Jun 21, 2018 at 11:31 AM, Rise Up Times wrote:

    > Rise Up Times posted: “Roger listed victims in so many shootings of black > citizens by police without accountability. He said he needed to be at the > [governor’s) mansion to express his grief and desire for a better system. > On June 14, 2018, Roger Cuthbertson (Veterans for Peace” >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Here’s the line you missed: “Here are excerpts from the trial process, written by Jo Schubert.”

      Liked by 1 person

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