AURORA - An Aurora Municipal Court jury Thursday found four young women guilty of trespassing on the property of a government defense contractor during a prayer vigil last spring.
Laura Folkwein, Kimberly Prince, Marie Marchand and Megan Ramer were arrested April 23 when they stepped onto the property of Raytheon, knelt and prayed. The four, all seminary students at the Iliff School of Theology, were part of a larger group of about 30 who were opposed to Raytheon's manufacture of military weapons.
The women testified that they were not protesting the war in Iraq, but were only trying to get Raytheon to stop manufacturing weapons.
During the one-day trial before a jury of three men and three women, Raytheon security manager Thomas Giblin testified the defendants talked to company officials in early April about holding the prayer vigil. Giblin said that he and the Aurora police anticipated possible acts of civil disobedience.
Giblin said that at one point the four women, holding hands, advanced from a sidewalk onto company property, knelt and started praying.
"I held up my hands and told them they had to leave," Giblin said. "I allowed them to finish and then asked (Aurora police Sgt. Thomas) Graham to arrest them."
Graham said the four were handcuffed and arrested after he and Giblin both ordered them off the property. The defendants all testified that they never intended to be arrested.
They also said they never heard the orders to leave because they were focusing on their praying, and there was a thunderstorm and singing and drumming from other protesters.
Attorney Felicia George, who represented all four defendants, argued that it was reasonable to think the women couldn't hear the commands to leave the property.
Aurora Assistant City Attorney Craig Berube said if the defendants didn't hear the orders it was "because they didn't want to hear them."
"They were there that day to make a point," Berube argued. "Raytheon has the right to say who, when and where someone comes on their property. They had an indication there might be acts of civil disobedience and they wanted to prevent things from getting out of hand."
The jury took about 35 minutes to reach its verdicts.
Chief Aurora Municipal Judge Raymond Jones fined each woman $400, $300 of which will be suspended if they have no further violations for a year. He also ruled that the defendants could serve 20 hours of community service in lieu of paying the fine. They will have to pay $62 in court costs and fees.
Afterward, the four women said they were disappointed in the verdicts, but not surprised.
"I feel that as Christians we have embraced a victory of a different kind," Marchand said. "I had hoped for a not-guilty verdict as a sign that the jury was expressing a new vision of what is right and moral."
George said the verdicts were an example of a jury ruling on the letter rather than the spirit of the law.
"The jury did its legal duty but failed to exercise its moral duty," she said.
Berube said jury members did as the court instructed them and only focused on the narrow issue at hand.
"While we can admire strong feelings and commitment, we must uphold the law," he said.
2003 © The E.W. Scripps Co