The Conspiracy Trial
By JEFF SHERO
The U.S. ended the trial of the Conspiracy Eight with all the subtlety of a bludgeoning. Despite the messy close and the muted cries of the professional observers in the press gallery, the defendants' demise came by club rather than through rapier thrusts. But then there is something to be said for the club. It's effective.
Judge Hoffman's trial procedure is the judicial equivalent to Mayor Daley's handling of peaceful assemblies: they forsake surgical neatness for slam-bang thoroughness. The strategy of Lincoln Park, and
lized character don't produce messy emotional reaction.
But it's clear the liberal's day is passed. The stench of the Empire's decay begins to waft into the nostrils of its children and the lines are drawn. The Kings and Kennedys are killed. Their replacements, the Nixons, Mitchells, Reagans, and Hayakawas, aren't concerned with style, only results. The government didn't treat it's number one political trial lig'htly. It was with some care and forethought that Julius Hoffman was selected Judge. No slip-ups; they wanted a judge and an executioner.
That's what they got.
ing for the defense on the grounds that the testimony would be "irrelevant. " But the real gutting of the defense rested in the continued sustaining of the prosecutor's objections to lines of questioning and admittance of evidence. Working in tandem, the government team of prosecutor and judge prevented important testimony from being heard. In many cases defendants took time in jail in the form of contempt in order to get information to the jury. Rennie Davis received six months for contempt because the judge continually admonished him to keep his testimony brief and "to the point. " Without daring and disruptions the defendants would have played their
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the Federal Courtroom is the same as Vietnam: Overkill. Bomb them back into the Stone Age. Get those leaders out of the streets and into the jails. By any means necessary. The sides are drawn: The Empire or revolution. All the participants understand. The cops come down hard; the defendants' peers answer back in the streets of twenty-five cities.
Only the observers fail to understand. As with Vietnam, they don't question the government's ultimate aims, they protest the messy way the deed is carried out. The critics prefer the clean kill, the rapier thrust, or, better yet, a silent poisoning. Social engineering over guns, channeling instead of punitive law, pacification instead of confrontation - methods whose civi-
This wasn't a trial of pretension; there were a dozen reversible errors. Beginning the first day, the judge never really questioned the jury as to whether they had pre-trial knowledge or prejudice. At the end it was revealed that one of the two male jurors, John Nelson, thought the defendants should have been shot down in the park, and one middle-aged woman stubbornly held out for locking them away on the rationale of "Would you like your children to grow up like them? "
But the defense could have won even with this prejudiced middle-aged jury if it had been allowed to present its case. Hoffman never gave them that chance. Critics bemoan the spectacular rulings such a as that which barred ex-Attorney General Ramsey Clark from testify-
own grave diggers. Decorum in the face of Fascism is silly. The government would have gotten itself a Conspiracy Conviction in addition to a conviction for crossing state lines with the intent to riot if the defendants had played by the rules.
The Benedict Arnold of the Youth Movement, twenty-three-old Kay Richards, cinched the verdict. The old people were stalled after four days; a black woman and a housewife with a hip daughter who regularly attended the trial held out for acquittal. In her copyrighted serialized story in the Chicago Sun-Times. Kay Richards described how she mediated between the deadlocked factions. She says that she wanted to save the government the expense of a retrial. Though she writes that the defendants opened new ways of continued on page 13