Principles of international law outweigh local ordinances, according to attorneys defending three people who trespassed on Hercules property in a protest of Trident nuclear missile production.
Charges that Deborah Levine, Lynne McCue-Hamilton and Matthew Haun illegally entered Hercules property Oct. 20 were heard in a non-jury trial Wednesday by 3rd Circuit Judge Judge Tyrone Medley.Defense attorneys said during opening statements Wednesday that the fact the three trespassed on Hercules property isn't in dispute. They will argue, rather, a much larger issue of whether local and state laws against trespassing are superseded in this case by international law and treaties the defense attorneys accuse Hercules of violating by building rocket motors for the Trident nuclear missile.
Hercules is guilty of committing "crimes against peace by making preparations for war," said defense attorney Russ Minas.
West Valley prosecutor Mark Sorenson noted the irony that Haun, one of the peace protesters on trial, is being tried without being there because he is in Saudi Arabia working as a civilian teaching English to sailors in the Royal Saudi Navy.
Sorenson said he found Haun's job "highly inconsistent with what his state of mind might have been a year ago" and objected to seeing the trial proceed without him.
Medley overruled Sorenson's objection. The prosecution rested its case after calling only one witness, the West Valley police sergeant who arrested Levine, McCue-Hamilton and Haun at the request of a Hercules security official.
Minas said one objective of his was to show that the trespass action was authorized by international principles that overstep city ordinances and the state constitution.
Defense attorney Bruce Plenk noted the significance of the principles being argued in the trial, which started "this day on which could have been the first day of war."
Plenk's comments came several hours before news broke of the U.S.-led air strike against Iraq.
Misdemeanor trespassing charges were originally levied against the three defendants, but the charges were reduced to infractions that carry a maximum $500 fine.
The move rubbed the defense the wrong way because they wanted a jury trial.
Haun and two other defendants were acquitted one year ago on similar charges following a jury trial in West Valley's circuit court before Judge William A. Thorne.
Medley closed the proceedings Wednesday by taking the case under advisement. A court clerk said his decision in the case is expected sometime next week.