Jo i nlppi e^:f::-S
in Boston, Oakland, Chicago, even in Louisville, Kay-Y
by Bucky Young
LOUISVILLE"Boston has had its conspiracy trial (Dr. Spock & Co.). Oakland has had its conspiracy trial (The Oakland Seven). Chicago is having its conspiracy trial (eight defendants charged with inciting the Democratic Convention police riot). And Louisville is having its conspiracy trial.
The defendants are known as the Black Six and they are charged with conspiring to purchase dynamite to blow up oil refineries in Louisville's West End during the May, 1968 , civil disorders.
The conspiracy trial seems to have come into vogue as a means of combatting and repressing the growing number of political activists. A recent book on the Spock trial written by Jessica Mitford goes a long way toward explaining why.
Speaking of the vagueness of the term, Miss Mitford says, "this elusive quality of conspiracy as a legal concept contributes to its deadliness as a prosecutor's tool and compounds the difficulties of defending against it. It is hard to find an antidote for the poison you cannot identify."
The fact is that no universal meaning for conspiracy exists. The result is that the prosecution can frequently define the term as it wishes to meet its needs"and get away with it.
Conspiracy usually is thought of as secretively plotting an illegal action for insidious purposes. But some of the five defendants in the Spock trial were not even acquainted with each other. Everything they had supposedly conspired to do, in fact, occurred completely in the open.
Spock and his codefendants publicly announced during the October, 1967, March on Washington that they were "counseling, aiding and abetting" young men eligible to be drafted to resist in protest of the Vietnam War. That would be a violation of the Universal Military Training and Service Act.
But if the prosecution had charged them with counseling, aiding and abetting"rather than conspiring to do so"it presumably would have had to have found young men willing to admit they had refused to comply with the draft as a result of Spock & Co.'s actions.
More importantly, if the defendants had been charged with counseling, aiding and abetting, it would have been much more likely that they could have brought out the truly substantial issues: that they were justified in committing these acts because they were challenging an illegal, immoral and criminal war. Then the war, as well as the defenders could possibly have gone on trial.
But because they were charged with conspiracy and not with counseling, aiding and abetting per se, they were prevented from using this tactic, and, hence, from getting at the real issue.
Another invidious quality about the conspiracy charge emerged at the Oakland trial. The Oakland Seven were charged with conspiring to commit three misdemeanors"resisting arrest, trespass and creating a public nuisance"during the attempt, also in October, 1967, to shut down the Oakland Induction Center. But because they were charged with conspiracy, they faced conviction for a felony.
Unlike the Spock trial, however, the Oakland Seven did manage to get to issues such as the illegality of the war and police brutality. The defendants were all young revolutionaries and made no pretense at being "respectable".
Because they were permitted to get at the basic issues, partially due to skillful defense tactics and partially due to the tolerance of the presiding judge, all seven were acquitted. And half of the jury was radicalized in the process.
Dr. Spock and three other defendants were convicted in their trial, although the convictions were soon overturned on appeal.
In Kentucky, the defendants in the Black Six case are Samuel Hawkins, Robert Kuyu Sims, Mrs. Ruth Bryant, Manfred Reid and Pete Cosby, all of Louisville, and James Cortez, Washington, D.C., the "outside agitator" of the group.
Actually, the trial will not take place in Louisville. Commonwealth's Atty. Edwin A. Schroering, the prosecutor, requested in his tireless pursuit of justice that the trial be moved to the Hart County Circuit Court in Munfordville, Ky., because he said pretrial publicity had impaired chances for a fair trial in Louisville. The six black defendants for some reason do not feel that moving the trial to rural Munfordville will increase their chances for a fair hearing.
The case against them seems to rest on a conversation between Cortez and an NBC film courier, Casey Caneila, which took place in the bar at
Stouffer's Inn during the civil disorder. The manager at Stouffer's, John Cranford, called police, saying Cortez had told Caneila about a plot to dynamite the refineries. Caneila later said Cortez did mention dynamite, but only "vaguely".
The police arrested Cortez at Stouffer's and charged him with inciting to riot. They found $450 and a sawed-off shotgun in his possession.
The police said Cortez confessed to the plot during questioning. The defense, to put it mildly, denies that he made any such confession.
Cortez, Hawkins and Sims initially were arrested in connection with the conspiracy charge. Hawkins and Sims were held on security warrants for a period, with bonds of $50,000 (normally the security warrant bond is about $200). Cortez was held under the same bond, plus an additional $25,000 as a "common nuisance".
In addition, Cortez was sentenced to five years' imprisonment (the maximum term) for possessing and transporting a sawed-off shotgun. He is currently serving the sentence at the Leavenworth (Kansas) Federal Penitentiary.
Counsel for the defense is Daniel T. Taylor III, a Louisville attorney who now deals exclusively in civil liberties cases. At 35, Taylor"by his own estimation"is the most radical lawyer in the state. He is a native Kentuckian and noticeably resemebles another native Kentuckian of some years past.
' His lean stature, his thatch of dark hair, his sharply-cut facial features and his carefully-trimmed beard cannot fail to call to mind Abraham Lincoln. When he wears his black suspenders, the resemblance becomes startling.
He does look like Honest Abe, but he discourses easily in the rhetoric of the Movement. When he talks, his eyes wander restlessly and impatiently, though they will stop suddenly when he makes an important point. Then they burn with intensity as if they are consuming the excess energy they are conserving by staying immobile.
Taylor himself is facing disbarment proceedings by the local bar association. The accusations range from assaulting a prosecuting attorney to threatening a witness, all of which appear to be trumped up. An outspoken man like Dan Taylor who does not see the present system of justice as being just is not particularly popular with the legal establishment.
As for the trial, it hasn't really started yet. The six blacks were indicted in the alleged conspiracy, although Taylor says he still doesn't know exactly how some of them are supposed to be connected with the dynamite plot.
The trial was to have begun last month"in Munfordville"but was delayed to January on Schroering's request. Schroering said he was doing so because of confusion over who was representing Cortez.
Taylor pointed out in the courtroom, however, that prison officials at Leavenworth said Schroering had failed to make the standard request for Cortez' transfer to Kentucky. The request, Taylor said, should have been made before the "contusion" about who was representing Cortez had come to Schroering's attention.
Schroering should be held in contempt of court, Taylor said, for neglecting Cortez' rights to a speedy trial and to be present for the trial. Taylor feels that the real reason for Schroering's request was to move the trial past the November elections so he would not suffer the consequences at the polls should he come out of the trial looking like a one-man inquisition.
Schroering is a politically ambitious man. He made a strong attempt to secure the Republican Party's nomination for Jefferson County Judge following the recent death of the original nominee, E.P. Sawyer. Schroering had the support of the local party regulars, but Gov. Louie B. Nunn's choice won out in the in-party battle.
Although the trial has not taken place, other things have. In addition to the attempt to disbar Taylor, the draft board of one of the defendants, Manfred Reid, reclassified him 1-A.
Reid, who is in his 30's, who is married and has children and who is a service veteran, was reclassified, the draft board said, because he failed to make regular reports as required by law. The fact that very few men make these reports and that the ones who don't aren't reclassified doesn't seem to bother the draft board. The long arm of Gen. Hershey apparently extends to Kentucky, along with his version of enforcing order through his quasi-vigilante draft boards.
The draft board has refused to discuss the subject in detail, saying that
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October 15, 1969