Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Court Report from Tuesday April 5 – Day 2 of the Dallas 6 Trial

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Highlights Day 2

·       Big news!  The court heard why the Dallas 6 did the peaceful protest. There was concern that they would not have been allowed to lay this out in court, so the fact that they did was in and of itself a victory. Andre Jacobs and Carrington Keys gave powerful opening statements laying out why they did the peaceful protest.  They were well-prepared, thorough and were effective in their cross-examinations.
·       Prosecution called two prison officials as witnesses in an attempt to back their claim that the men wanted to coerce the guards to forcebly remove them from their cells.  They further charged Carrington Keys with assault: they claimed he threw feces.   
·       A video was shown in which Duane Peters is clearly heard over and over saying, “We want to talk to the Luzerne County Public Defenders,” prior to guards removing the men from their cells (cell extraction).

·       Defendants blew holes in the prosecution’s assault charges by showing discrepancies with official reports; they said they did not know cell extraction would happen and that prison officials could have avoided it. 

After the prosecution made their opening arguments that this was a riot because the men wanted to coerce cell removal/extraction and there was assault because Keys allegedly threw feces, Andre Jacobs, one of the Dallas 6, told the jury they were appreciative because this was the first time in six years that they had a chance to tell their side of the case.  He then laid out how the evidence showed that the police never investigated the so-called crime scene, that the charges are politically motivated and that the Dallas 6 were targets of retaliation because they had a lawsuit against the prison and the guards.  Retaliation was in the form of mail tampering, deprivation of food and clothes, attacks and threats that they would be killed.  He understood that prison is not a country club, but the guards have a duty to abide by the law.  He took the peaceful action to protect himself and the other prisoners.  He hopes the jury finds them not guilty.

Carrington Keys of the Dallas 6 began by thanking the jury, and said they did a peaceful protest in defense of others imprisoned in solitary confinement. They had filed hundreds of complaints about abuse and torture without relief, only retaliation.  After guards left a Latino man in a restraint chair for 15 hours, they had to do something to save the life of friends and others, so they engaged in a peaceful protest, as it was the only option available to them.  During the cell extraction, it was factually and mathematically impossible for a substance to be thrown, and reports showed the guards sustained no injuries and did not change their clothes.  Covering cell windows are actions taken every day and there is never this level of response.  They were singled out.  Covering cell windows is not a riot.  He said, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you are our only voice, and your duties are important.”

Michael Wiseman, attorney for Duane Peters, defined the terms: RHU is a block of cells where men are kept in solitary confinement without contact with each other or others except for an hour of what is euphemistically called “recreation.”  A restraint chair is where you are strapped by your arms and legs with strict guidelines on use which are not always honored.  He said, “these gentlemen can give context in a way I cannot on the brutality of what goes on in RHU and what happens in cell extraction where the force is overwhelming.  It’s a brutal process, with stun guns, tasers and electric shields that bring a prisoner down immediately.”  He said the jury will hear shouts of “stop resisting” but they will not see any resistance.  The prosecution is trying to turn a peaceful protest into a riot charge. He’s not saying that what they did was the right thing to do as the prison rules say you cannot cover your window, but in the context it may have been the right thing to do.  And covering your cell window is a common occurrence.  This is a serious criminal charge and not all is what it appears to be. 

Sargent Buck was the first witness to be called by the prosecution.  He claimed that feces hit him “in the head area”. A video was shown of the cell extraction, where he was the camera man, the 5th man in the line to go into the cell.  Two videos were shown leading up to the cell extraction, one where he goes down the line of the cells asking each of the seven men to remove the item covering the window and announcing that each man was not compliant. The other is where the court psychologist who is supposed to be their hostage negotiating team to try to talk to the men, goes to each cell.  He says, “remove the sheet so I can talk to you.” By this time another prisoner has covered his window.  None respond except Duane Peters who says over and over, “We want to talk to the Luzerne County Public Defenders” and “you are denying us our right to talk to a lawyer.” 

In cross examination, Carrington Keys brought into evidence, despite objections of the prosecution, a medical report that said Mr Buck was hit in the back of the head by a cup of urine and feces that was thrown at him.  Mr Buck said that he didn’t write that report but he would not deny it on the stand, only that “he was hit in the head area”.  But he could not remember where in the head he was hit. It was also raised whether the report of the assault was written before the incident even took place which he denied, and that the story was fabricated as retaliation which he also denied.  Further that reports and previous testimony were that “the inmates were protesting”, never that the inmates were rioting.  Also that he failed in his duty to counsel prisoners.  

Andre Jacobs asked Mr Buck how many times he has met with the DA to discuss his testimony.  He couldn’t remember and he denied discussing his testimony.  He claims he couldn’t remember when he knew that grievances had been filed against him and that he was out on medical leave.  Andre raised the suicide of Matthew Bullock (a mentally ill, elderly white man), which the men had documented in the Human Rights Coalition report.  When the prosecution raised objections that it was not relevant, Andre Jacobs replied that our defense is that once the HRC report came out, we were retaliated against, that Mr Buck prevented the process of finding a resolution. Andre’s questioning brought out that cell extraction is discretionary, that there were other options.  This is important since the prosecutors claim is that the men knew they would face cell extraction, and they didn’t. 

Attorney Michael Wiseman’s cross-examination revealed that the guards had received a note from a confidential informant that a protest was going to happen. He also exposed a prison rule that when executing extraction, it was to be “with the least amount of force necessary.” 

The final witness of the day for the prosecution was Lt Mozier.  He claims he went around to talk to the men before the cell extractions began.  But there is no video evidence of this, and the men claimed it never happened. He also claimed that if the men had removed the items blocking the window and come to the door and put their hands through the slot to be handcuffed as did one prisoner, there would not have been the cell extraction.  Andre Jacobs said they feared for their lives and that their lives were threatened.  Lt Mozier also said he could not remember if the items had already been removed from the cell windows before extraction began.  He doesn’t recall any conflict with the prisoners or the complaints made against him. Carrington Keys again raised that Lt Mozier  did nothing to try to resolve the issue, that there was no record anywhere of his having gone cell to cell to talk to the men, there were other avenues than cell extraction, and that he took no steps in crisis intervention.

The video player didn’t work, so questioning of Lt Mozier is resuming today (Wednesday), after playing the next video. 

Media coverage

Daily coverage of the trial by NBC 28 Scranton (Note: exact link may have changed, you may have to search video on website)

Times-Leader (Luzerne County):


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