Search form

Trial of Occupy Activist Struggles to Find Jurors Impartial to Protest Movement

Trial of Occupy Activist Struggles to Find Jurors Impartial to Protest Movement
Fri, 4/11/2014 - by Jon Swaine
This article originally appeared on The Guardian

It is the most important question being asked of dozens of New Yorkers lined up as potential jurors for the trial of Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street activist accused of assaulting a police officer: what do you think of her protest movement?

Unfortunately for those keen on the swift procession of justice, a series of Manhattan residents who presented themselves at the criminal courthouse this week declared that they strongly disagreed with it – and could not promise to be impartial about one of its members.

“I’m involved in Wall Street things. I’m on the Wall Street side, not their side,” George Yih, one of a group of prospective jurors whose names were plucked from a tombola by the clerk, said under questioning from Judge Ronald Zweibel on Wednesday. “They can protest all they want, but they can’t brainwash my mind.”

Yih was removed from a shortlist for the panel that will decide if McMillan, 25, assaulted Officer Grantley Bovell by striking him with her arm at Zuccotti Park in March 2012. McMillan denies the felony charge and says that she was reacting to having one of her breasts grabbed from behind. She faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

But Yih’s remarks were only the first in a succession of criticisms against the anti-capitalist movement made throughout the day by other would-be jurors. Each said that he or she had ties to a finance industry that holds about one in nine jobs in New York City and pays more than a third of the total wages earned annually in Manhattan.

And as one after the other was rejected – either by McMillan’s attorneys, state prosecutors, or the judge – a jury selection process that the defense had hoped would be completed in one day reached the end of a second with only seven of the 12 jurors’ seats filled.

“For 20 years, my occupation has been, in some fashion, on Wall Street,” said Jason McLean, who said he was an equity trader living in Murray Hill with his wife, who was also an equity trader. “Everything I believe – my morals – are kind of the antithesis of what they represent.” He concluded: “I don’t know that I could be completely objective.”

“I like to think of myself as fair,” Alan Moore, who said his wife worked on Wall Street as a bond strategist for Credit Suisse, told the judge. “But in terms of Occupy Wall Street in general, I would give less credibility to that group than average.”

Even to a witness in court? “Yeah,” said Moore. “They seem to be people moving a little outside regular social norms and regular behaviour. Therefore I don’t give them the same level of respect as people who follow the line.”

Requests by McMillan’s attorneys to exclude both McLean and Moore from the jury were granted by the judge, despite being challenged by Erin Choi and Shanda Strain, the assistant district attorneys representing New York.

Even they, however, conceded that Mary Malone – an Upper East Side resident who previously worked for a bond fund and said: “I have really strong feelings about Occupy Wall Street and the people involved” – and Peter Kaled, a corporate finance worker from the Upper West Side who said that one of his friends had policed Zuccotti Park at the height of the protests, should not make the cut.

However, as they prepared to bring a case that will also test the credibility of officers whose conduct while arresting dozens of protesters on that March evening two years ago attracted sharp criticism from civil liberties groups, the pair of state prosecutors had their own reasons for rejecting prospective jurors.

They had an African American man excluded after he said that a grievance relating to a past run-in with the NYPD could affect his view of the officers expected to testify against McMillan. Patrick Grigsby, an Upper West Side actuary, was similarly banished after expressing mistrust of Bovell when informed that the cop was disciplined by bosses for having five parking and speeding tickets fixed as part of the so-called “Bronx ticketing scandal” of 2011.

McMillan’s lawyers said after the trial was adjourned until Friday that they remained confident the court would “find people that fit the profile” of impartial peers. “We’ve seen people saying they can’t be fair on Occupy, and we’ve seen people who say they can’t be fair on the cops,” Martin Stolar, her lead attorney, said outside court. “A surprising number of people are actually willing to say that they can’t be fair,” said Rebecca Heinegg, his co-counsel.

A fresh air of optimism had blown into the 11th-floor courtroom with the day’s final pool of 60 potential jurors an hour earlier. Yet when Zweibel asked if any of them thought that they could not be “fair and impartial” in considering the trial at hand, a young woman in the second row instantly threw up an arm and was summoned to a sidebar meeting with the judge and attorneys. “I worked at Deutsche Bank,” she could be heard whispering, before being excused.

Originally published by The Guardian

Article Tabs

Welcome to nightmare capitalism, survival-by-popularity, the real Hunger Games: where we're forced to go online and crowdfund our way to rent payments, child support, illness recovery and more.

Leading activist and anti-TPP campaigner Kevin Zeese talks about the battle that still remains to defeat the TPP, Hillary Clinton's reversal on the deal, and the long trail of lies told by President Obama's Trade Rep Michael Froman.

As the child of Chinese immigrants and as a woman, Grace learned early on that the world needed changing.

Flint Michigan, Michigan, water

It’s not the government, but private citizens and researchers who have been battling to reveal dangerous lead levels.

Rebel Cities are desirable as a form of disobedience that defy states, legal frameworks, supranations or markets.

How will the state pay for these new tax cuts that primarily benefit the rich? By raising taxes on the poor, of course.

Posted 3 days 18 hours ago
Detroit foreclosures, Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction, tax foreclosure auctions, online auction, foreclosed homes

The largest known municipal foreclosure sale to date, the Detroit home sell-off could be a modern take on Manifest Destiny – luring would-be frontiersmen and speculators from across the world to try their hand at “buying Detroit.”

Posted 4 days 19 hours ago
corporate tax avoidance, corporate tax dodgers, corporate taxes, corporate tax havens, corporate tax deductions

The corporate world paid about half their required taxes, revealing the extent to which Americans are being deprived of revenue that should be going to education and infrastructure.

Posted 4 days 20 hours ago
money in politics, Super PACs, political action committees, Citizens United, money is not speech, Larry Lessig, campaign finance reform

To watch American politics today is to watch money speaking – and the sums involved dwarf those in any other mature democracy.

Posted 4 days 20 hours ago
Group of Five, Group of 10, G-5, G-10, global governance, World Bank, IMF, Group of 20, G-20

An overlapping and highly integrated network of institutions, committees and secret meetings of ad-hoc groups collectively make up the most powerful and informal political structure in the world.

Posted 1 day 20 hours ago
Acronym TV, Afghanistan bombing, hospital bombing, Taliban, Barack Obama, Doctors Without Borders, war crimes, War on Terror

The United States marks the 15th anniversary of its military invasion and occupation of Afghanistan this week, with no end in sight.

corporate tax avoidance, corporate tax dodgers, corporate taxes, corporate tax havens, corporate tax deductions

The corporate world paid about half their required taxes, revealing the extent to which Americans are being deprived of revenue that should be going to education and infrastructure.

GMOs, genetically modified food, GMO labeling, money in politics, H.R. 1599, Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, JustLabelIt, Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, Organic Trade Association, U.S. Right to Know

Corporations like Monsanto and Coca-Cola have poured more than $50 million into the fight against GMO labeling in the first half of 2015 alone.

Roosevelt Institute, Joseph Stiglitz, growing inequality, wealth inequality, income inequality, income gap, Great Recession, New Deal, FDR

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has led a report called "Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy," which seeks to simultaneously reform the financial sector and wrest power from the 1% while redistributing wealth to workers.

bank bailouts, Wall Street crimes, Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, Great Recession, illegal foreclosures, banking crimes

The former Fed chair says that, in addition to banks and corporations paying billions in fines for their illegal activities that triggered the economic meltdown and Great Recession, individuals should have also been held accountable.

Sign Up