Big Books Trial

Bev Rice at the March 19, 2015 “Big Books” anti-drone war protest at Hancock Air Base outside Syracuse, NY.

Bev Rice at the March 19, 2015 “Big Books” anti-drone war protest at Hancock Air Base outside Syracuse, NY.

It appears possible that the trial of five people arrested at the Hancock Air Base “Big Books” counter-drone war protest in 2015 will begin on February 28 after a postponement triggered by the defendants’ request for a racially diverse jury rather than the all-white jury that was chosen.  The request was particularly appropriate because one of the defendants, James Ricks, is African-American.

Whether the trial proceeds will depend on whether a diverse jury pool can be created, and whether DeWitt Town Court Judge David Gideon allows the trial to go forward if the jury selection again results in an all-white jury.  If the judge decides to go forward, the defendants may have ground for appeal.

It is difficult to impanel a diverse jury in DeWitt, site of the Hancock drone control base, because the community of about 24,000 is nearly 90 percent white, according to Wikipedia.,_New_York. Just under 5 percent are African-American; the Hispanic population is said to be 1.35 percent.

The racial composition of the jury is critical not only with respect to fairness to all the defendants.  The charges against the defendants result from their protest of a national war policy that obviously goes beyond issues of well-being DeWitt citizens alone. This means that the DeWitt jury needs to be diverse to better represent national racial diversity.  Racial diversity on the DeWitt jury may give the defendants a better chance in court given results of a Pew Research Center study released in 2015 that found that while 66 percent of whites surveyed supported U.S. drone attacks, only 46 percent of African-Americans and 39 percent of Hispanics approved.

Those facing trial on February 28 are, in addition to Mr. Ricks, are: Daniel Burns, Ithaca, NY; Brian Hynes, the Bronx, NY; Ed Kinane, Syracuse, NY; and the Rev. Bill Pickard, Scranton, PA.  They are charged with Obstructing Governmental Administration, two Disorderly Conduct charges and one Trespass charge.

Juliene Oldfield, of Syracuse, and Bev Rice, of New York City, also face these charges, but they will tried later.  They are also charged of Contempt of Court for allegedly violating an Order of Protection that the Hancock commander took out against the women, attempting to prevent them from protesting at the base.

All were arrested on March 19, 2015 on the 12th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  They blocked the main Hancock Gate with oversize copies of the UN Charter, Dirty Wars, Living Under Drones and You Never Die Twice.

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