I have excellent news. After almost eight hours of deliberation, the jury found both Wayne and Paul NOT GUILTY of burglary and theft. They are free!
This is a resounding victory for the animal rights movement, for the #RightToRescue, for open rescue activists, and for everyone who has compassion.
It is also a resounding victory for the curiosity, thoroughness, and courage of the jury, who saw through the evidentiary obstacle course that Judge Wilcox concocted for them and through the machinations of Smithfield. It is a resounding victory for anyone who wants their taxpayer money to be spent on worthy causes, not on persecuting innocent animals and their friends.
It is also a resounding victory for excellent lawyering – Wayne, who represented himself and did an incredible job despite having his life on the line; Mary Corporon, who represented Paul with a wealth of experience, talent, common sense, and wit; and numerous wonderful law students (Andre, Taj, Josh) who worked tirelessly backstage on legal arguments, research, and strategy.
Here’s what I learned from following this trial, and especially from paying attention to the jury’s questions: even when people’s hearts are in the right place, and they want to do the right thing, it is essential to give them a legal “hook” for the decision. In this case, in the absence of necessity, the “hook” was the argument about the value of the pigs. In many ways, this was better than having the necessity defense available, in that the argument was so technical, so value neutral, and so part of the legal core of the elements of the offense, that it might have provided a bridge between those who were moved to acquit on ideology and those who could not bring themselves to do that outside of the law and facts. This is something we can all take from this to animal rights lawyering everywhere.
This is also an important lesson for activists planning open rescues in the future about how to craft their rescue in ways that skirt such trumped-up charges.
And it is a lesson to powerful corporations in the cruelty business and their state attorney lackeys not to persecute, hound, overcharge, and expend resources to abuse, people who save animals.