It's time to dismiss all charges against Moral Monday arrestees

When justice is a crap shoot.

After weeks of hit-and-miss justice, lawyers for Moral Monday defendants have finally hit upon the winning argument:

This week, trials resulted in more acquittals after defense attorneys pointed out that demonstrators on the third floor of the N.C. Legislative Building were engaging in many of the same actions that protesters were arrested for on the second floor.

This has been my contention all along. The rules of arrest at the General Assembly were arbitrary and contrived to fit the political agenda of Thom Tillis and Phil Berger. The actions of protestors on the second floor could in no way be distinguished from the actions of protestors on the third floor. The only difference is that police arrested people on the second floor, while ignoring the actions of those on the third.

It's long past time for Colon Willoughby to put an end to this charade.

Comments

I agree

That was my point as I watched the video of my June 3 arrest prior to my trial where i was found guilty. You could hear the singing and clapping and it was obvious that it was coming from the third floor. This is like throwing spaghetti at a wall. Whatever sticks.

Its the Elements

From what I could see, that wasn't the reason for the not guilty verdict. That was a very, very small part of the defense's argument. It was almost mentioned in passing.

What really happened was the DA screwed up. The DA dropped all charges except 2nd degree trespass. The statute reads:

§ 14-159.13. Second degree trespass.
(a) Offense. -- A person commits the offense of second degree trespass if, without
authorization, he enters or remains on premises of another:
(1) After he has been notified not to enter or remain there by the owner,
by a person in charge of the premises, by a lawful occupant, or by another authorized
person; or
(2) That are posted, in a manner reasonably likely to come to the
attention of intruders, with notice not to enter the premises.
(b) Classification. -- Second degree trespass is a Class 3 misdemeanor.

The DA failed to even allege that the General Assembly was the "premises of another." The defense came in ready to argue that it was not the "premises of another" because it is public property, but he didn't really even get to make that argument. The DA glossed over this essential element and likely just took it as assumed. That was stupid. The judge almost dismissed the case on this grounds but found that there was just enough testimony to meet the element "in the light most favorable to the state." But that is not enough to convict.

The problem is, the trespass statute is ill suited for this type of situation. The GA probably needs to create a governmental trespass statute that fixes this issue and better defines the grounds for being asked to leave. This would make it alot clearer on all fronts.

In the DA's defense, as important as these trials are, they are low-level misdemeanors being heard in a less-formal district court setting. These are quick bench trials that don't usually garner the constitutional arguments we are seeing here. Its just not built for it.

I understand

Thanks for the clarification.

That said, perhaps is should have been a larger part of the argument, because it speaks to the complete and random discretion available to the police as they decided who was worthy of arrest. That's not a constitutional issue, it's a practical one.

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We are not amused.