Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Judge to decide on 'necessity' of prayer, Group says other anti-war tactics failed

Worcester Telegram & Gazette News Paper

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Judge to decide on 'necessity' of prayer, Group says other anti-war tactics failed


WORCESTER— Five people arrested after they prayed inside the federal

courthouse for an end to the Iraq war said they had no choice but to

do so.

But a federal prosecutor said the fact they tired of other anti-war

methods does not mean they didn't have alternatives.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Hillman said he will give a decision

in writing on whether to allow the five defendants to use a defense of

"necessity" during their bench trial scheduled for Sept. 23.

The five Roman Catholics, some of whom are affiliated with the local

Catholic Worker house, are Scott C. Schaeffer-Duffy; Michael

Benedetti, of 4 Englewood Ave. ; Kenneth Hannaford-Ricardi, of 6

Chatman Place; Sandra McSweeney, of 6 Bates St. , Mendon; and Roger

Stanley, of 55 Pleasant St., Berlin . They are charged with the petty

offenses of obstructing the entrance to the Donohue courthouse and

failure to comply with the lawful direction of a U.S. marshal on March

19, the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq .

With eight supporters looking on, Mr. Schaeffer-Duffy acknowledged

that he and his co-defendants violated the law, but said the actions

were necessary to avoid a greater harm — that of the ongoing loss of

life of Americans and Iraqis in that Middle Eastern country. Mr.

Schaeffer-Duffy submitted a motion citing precedents from the Book of

Jonah to 16th-century English jurisprudence to more than a dozen cases

from U.S. state and federal courts — most of which Assistant U.S.

Attorney Karin M. Bell said were improperly cited and she could not


Mr. Schaeffer-Duffy said the five defendants met the elements that the

1st Circuit Court of Appeals said are required for a "necessity"

defense, including that they chose the lesser of two evils, acted to

prevent imminent harm, reasonably anticipated a direct causal

relationship between their acts and the harm to be averted, and had no

legal alternative but to violate the law.

He said they have long tried other methods, including demonstrating

every Tuesday for the past 19 years in Lincoln Square , fasting for 43

days, and seeing U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern file four bills in

Congress to end the war, as they say polls show that the majority of

Americans want — and all failing.

Ms. Bell said the only relevant evidence in the case will be whether

the defendants acted as Supervisory Deputy Marshal Thomas Bezanson

said they did.

She said they failed to show a necessity to violate the law.

"It is not sufficient for the defendants to show impatience with

activities they have engaged in for 19 years," she said. "The fact

that they were ineffective yet and that they may never be effective is

not sufficient."

She said the marshals told them they could legally hold their prayer

vigil if they got a permit, but Mr. Schaeffer-Duffy said they were

told that only after they had assembled, and not when they

hand-delivered a message of their intentions five days before the


Judge Hillman asked why the vigil could not have taken place somewhere

other than the courthouse. Mr. Schaeffer-Duffy said prayer for the

sick should take place near the sick, and he noted that courts are

empowered to place checks on executive branch power.


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