The best defense is a good offense.
Friday was David Lane's birthday, and the criminal defense attorney gave himself a present by wreaking some legal havoc. When Claudia Jordan, the Denver County Court judge presiding over a hearing for some of the 83 Columbus Day protesters, announced that potential witnesses should be sequestered, Lane asked which potential witnesses she meant, exactly, since there were some fifty people in the courtroom — including Jared Jacang Maher, the Westword staffer who'd covered the Columbus Day protest ("Taking It to the Streets," October 25, 2007). If she needed to, Jordan responded, she'd take attendance.
"So I stand up and start the revolution," Lane says. After arguing that the judge did not have the authority to do that — that recording names would violate the Constitution — he proceeded to exercise more constitutional rights by calling Maher to the stand, throwing the First Amendment into the mix.
"Do you believe that as a reporter you have a constitutional right to sit here in this courtroom and listen to the testimony in this hearing?" Lane asked.
"As a reporter and this being a public hearing, I do."
"You also understand that as a citizen, you are subject to subpoena just like anyone else?"
"So you just heard the judge tell everyone in this courtroom that if you are going to be called as a witness at this trial, then you are going to have to get up and leave the proceedings today."
"Do you think Westword magazine would have a First Amendment interest in getting counsel over here right now to see if their reporter can be constitutionally thrown out of the courtroom or not?"
Prosecution: "Objection, your honor. That calls for legal conclusion."
"Do you know whether or not Patty Calhoun, who is the editor of Westword...has expressed to you in the past a concern about maintaining Westword's rights under the First Amendment?"
Prosecution: "Objection. It calls for speculation."
Judge: "I wasn't trying to preclude Westword from being in the courtroom. I'm only precluding witnesses."
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And so it went for a few more minutes (you can read the full transcript at blogs.westword.com). After Maher left the stand — and the courtroom, since by now he'd been officially designated as a witness — Lane called Rocky Mountain News reporter Sue Lindsay.
At that point, the judge decided the day's hearing was done — but the case is far from over. While charges have been dismissed against three of the protesters, including Russell Means, eighty defendants are still awaiting their day in court. One, perpetual protester Glenn Morris, is set for trial on January 16.
This is one parade that won't pass us by. The best defense is a good offense, after all, so Westword will be there — with reporters to spare as the endless shenanigans continue.