D-5 Nine Not Guilty!

By Elizabeth Roberts

The trial of the "D-5 Nine" began June 7, 1999 in Kitsap County District Court in Port Orchard, WA. The "D-5" is the newest Trident missile. On August 9, 1998, nine peace activists blocked the road into the Bangor Trident submarine base near Poulsbo, WA. The county charged disorderly conduct.

Deputy Prosecutor Claire Bradley said in her opening remarks, "The fact…is they sat in the road and detained no less than eight cars for approximately eight minutes."

Judge James Riehl allowed into evidence photographs of the action, an edited video of the action, four large posters of excerpts of the Hague Conventions, the Nuremberg Principles, and the 1996 international Court of Justice opinion regarding the illegality of nuclear weapons, and the statement written for the action by the defendants.

Defense attorney Ken Kagan, on cross examination of Deputy John Brossell, asked Brossell to display and describe the patch worn on the shoulders of Kitsap County Sheriff's Deputies. "It says 'sheriff' at the top. There's a yellow star below that." "And what," Mr. Kagan asked, "is below the star?" Brossell replied, "That's a Trident submarine ..."

Defendant Rev. Anne Hall testified, "As a U.S. citizen, it's my right to act to stop my country from doing something illegal. As a mother to protect my children. As a minister, I'm entitled and required to protect God's children and creation."

Defendant Mary Gleysteen said of the D-5: "It's a horror of the nuclear arms race. It appalls me and was forefront in my mind on Aug. 9. $60 million to refit one missile when there are homeless people and people without medical care in our own community."

Judge Riehl surprised many in the courtroom with his jury instructions. Instruction #9: "A person acts with 'lawful authority' when he or she acts in reliance upon his or her reasonable interpretation of a relevant state or local ordinance, state or federal statute, treaty, or state or federal court ruling."

Instruction #11: "You are instructed that as a matter of federal Constitutional law, states are bound to respect the terms of treaties entered into by Congress. Congress alone has the power to abrogate a treaty or impose any additional limitations. Thus to the extent there may be a conflict between a law of the state of Washington, and a right granted or an obligation imposed by a treaty of the U.S., the right granted or the obligation imposed by the treaty will govern."

These instructions were a windfall for the defense because the prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants blocked vehicular traffic without lawful authority. After deliberating [four hours] all defendants were found not guilty.

The judge then gave the jurors a chance to speak. Presiding Juror Barbara Johnson choked back tears as she expressed her gratitude to her fellow jurors and then explained the verdict. She said that they had been deeply moved by the defendants' conviction and courage.

Judge Riehl also spoke, saying "I think we all agree that the use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable…" Juror Leah Merkle came to join a closing circle in the courtroom and related that she had "no doubt" in her mind that the defendants were not guilty. "I'm really glad there are people like this in the world. If the government is making nuclear weapons, then they're committing the bigger crime."

Elizabeth Roberts is a school teacher and a member of the Ground Zero Center