Discover more from The Simple Heart
Five predictions as I go to trial
Court starts tomorrow. But this is just the first battle in a struggle that will last for decades.
NOTE: I’m writing every day in memory of Lisa, who died on October 13. Not all of these posts will be sent out by email, and some I may write from jail/prison, as I go to trial on November 29. So if you want to follow this journey, visit the blog every day. I’ll try to post by 10 am each day, but occasionally, I’m sure a post will be late.
The prosecutor who is bringing felony charges, after mostly ignoring our legal team over the last few weeks, finally wrote back to my friend Jon Frohnmayer yesterday. And he remained adamant: nothing short of a felony plea bargain to resolve the case. Given that I’ve never taken a plea in my life, and am not inclined to take any plea at all, this was not a response that was likely to lead to resolution.
And so I will go to trial tomorrow, for the first time in my life, as a defendant. Here are five predictions as we go to trial.
Many, if not most, of the jurors will have a prejudice against animal rights activists. In an election year that Biden decisively won, Transylvania County went strongly for Trump. In a nation where farming has become almost entirely universalized, many people in this area still raise animals for food on their own land. It’ll be hard, therefore, to find jurors who can approach the issues in this case with an open mind and open heart.
We will find unexpected sympathy as we educate the jury, and the entire legal system, about animal rights. Notwithstanding any prejudgment, there will be many people — including court staff, the judge, and perhaps even prosecutors — who will learn an enormous amount about animal rights. Some may even be changed. Our message, after all, is not one that targets any individuals but the system that corrupts us all — one that treats the living creatures of this earth as mere commodities.
The trial will be long — much longer than the prosecution expects. I have heard through my counsel that the prosecution thinks the trial could be over in 2 days. When one looks at the witnesses likely to be called, it seems it should be finished in 3-4 days. But activist cases are always harder and longer than we expect. And because so much of the evidence is complex and hard for a jury to ascertain, it would not surprise me one bit if the trial bleeds into next week.
Court will be slow, but there will be dramatic confrontations. Most people who are non-lawyers are struck, their first time in court, about the number of procedural fights in a trial. A large amount of time will be spent on things such as jury selection, motions to exclude evidence, and other matters that seem collateral to the central issues. But there will still be dramatic and unprecedented moments, where the competing ideologies (animal rights v. animal exploitation) will face off head-to-head.
The movement will win, no matter what happens at trial. The battle in the courtroom will be a tough one, given the factors I set out above. But the important thing to remember is that the movement will win no matter what the outcome is in court. First, this is because the movement will mobilize and unify in the face of genuine activist repression. People will set aside their differences, and push themselves to do more, when they see what’s at stake. Second, the case will be a legal, political, and sociological precedent for the movement. Every effective social justice movement in history has used dramatic courtroom battles to highlight their movement’s narrative. And even when those battles were lost, they provided a foundation for the future. Claudette Colvin’s name may not be remembered by history, but her act of bravery — sitting in the segregated section of a bus months before Parks was arrested — was arguably as important as Rosa Parks’ to pushing the cause of civil rights forward. The reason is simple. Sometimes, you have to lose (and learn from your losses) in order to win.
I’m confident that, no matter what happens in this trial, our movement will learn. We learned from the SHAC cases in the mid 2000s. We learned from the ag gag cases in the early 2010s. And we will learn from the prosecution of open rescue activists, and build a stronger movement from that knowledge.
But perhaps the most important reason we win, even if we “lose” in court, is because we did the right thing by saving Rain. No one will ever take that away from us. And, when people look into their hearts, they know that, ultimately, we are right. Compassion is not a crime. Rescue is not terrorism. And every act of kindness towards animals is building us toward a world where every animal is safe, happy, and free.