Home Statehood D.C. Democracy 7 Trial: Hung Jury Results in Mistrial -- New Trial Set for February 8, 2001
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D.C. Democracy 7 Trial: Hung Jury Results in Mistrial -- New Trial Set for February 8, 2001 E-mail
MEDIA ADVISORY
For immediate release
Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Contacts:
Wayne Turner, (202) 547-9404; Martin Thomas, (202) 332-6558

D.C. Democracy 7 Trial: Hung Jury Results in Mistrial -- New Trial Set for February 8, 2001

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The trial of the "D.C. Democracy 7" on the charge of "Disruption of Congress" concluded today with the jury of twelve D.C. residents telling Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby that they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict after 10 hours of deliberation.  The Judge then declared a mistrial and government prosecutors requested a new trial.  The defendants were ordered back to courtroom 116 of D.C. Superior Court (500 Indiana Avenue, NW) on Thursday, February 8, 2001, 9:00 am, to begin a new trial.

The defendants -- Steve Donkin, Debby Hanrahan, Bette Hoover, Queen Mother ShemaYah, Tanya Snyder, Karen A. Szulgit, and Martin Thomas -- were arrested on July 26 in the U.S. House of Representatives Visitors' Gallery after they spoke out on the District of Columbia Appropriations Bill, which contains numerous riders that go against the popular will of D.C. residents.  The riders include prohibitions on D.C.'s locally passed medical marijuana initiative and domestic partnership law, restrictions on the District's locally funded needle exchange program, and a prohibition on using city funds to sue Congress for voting rights.

The seven defendants reacted to the floor debate by verbally objecting to the "blatantly anti-democratic" nature of the process which excludes D.C. residents from a voice in decisions that directly affect them.  They then cast their "votes" by chanting "D.C. Votes No!  Free D.C!" before being arrested by U.S. Capitol Police and charged with disrupting Congress, an offense which carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a $500 fine.

The trial began on October 26 after two days of jury selection and an initial announcement by the U.S. Attorney's office that the charge against co-defendant and Statehood Green Party candidate for D.C. "Shadow" Representative Martin Thomas had been dismissed.  The prosecutors gave no reason for dismissing Thomas' charge while continuing with the case against the remaining six defendants.  In addition to the defendants' testimony, D.C.'s non-voting Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton testified as a fact witness for the defense.  "I did not want to disrupt the democratic process that day in Congress," co-defendant Karen A. Szulgit said in her testimony.  "I wanted to participate in it." Queen Mother ShemaYah later said, "I was there to see for myself how Congress is playing with my life."

Four of the defendants were represented during their trial by attorneys Kenneth Page, Reginald Williamson, and Veta Carney; in addition, defendants Hoover and Donkin represented themselves pro se.  "It amazes me that the government should waste so much time, energy, and taxpayer money prosecuting citizens who are simply asking for their democratic rights," said co-defendant Debby Hanrahan.  This was the third time this year that the government has tried, and failed, to convict D.C. democracy activists on disruption of Congress charges.  The U.S. Attorney's office will make a fourth attempt on November 17, when the trial of Ben Armfield, charged with disrupting Congress during the D.C. budget vote in September, will begin.


 
Home Statehood D.C. Democracy 7 Trial: Hung Jury Results in Mistrial -- New Trial Set for February 8, 2001

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