'Moral Monday' cases go to trial

Hundreds of charges against protestors at the General Assembly threatening to tie up courts
October 11, 2013 2:07:28 PM PDT
The second group of Moral Monday protestors charged with trespassing during demonstrations at the North Carolina General Assembly showed up at the Wake County Justice Center Friday.

Hundreds were arrested in more than 10 weeks of demonstrations. Now all those cases are threatening to jam up the court system - as many of the protestors are requesting trials.

On Friday, the court only got through one or two cases; many were pushed back to a later date.

Part of the delay is basically, there is not much legal precedent for trespassing at the General Assembly, meaning there's not a lot of case law for judges to rely on.

While all the cases are similar, they are different enough that we've seen different outcomes. Friday, a husband and wife arrested protesting on May 6 had the trespassing case against them dismissed.

But a week ago, the first Moral Monday defendant was found guilty of trespassing.

There's high interest in the cases from other defendants and other lawyers. There was plenty of note taking going on with every argument Friday. The legal wrangling could extend the trials well into the future - and cost taxpayers more money. But defendants say it's a small price to pay in the fight over rights.

"You cannot put a dollar on keeping our democracy strong, you cannot put a dollar sign on it.  If this is what it takes to keep ourselves free, then we have to do it, there's not even a choice in my mind," offered Tara Blomquist - who was arrested on May 6.

There is a plea deal on the table for Moral Monday defendants. But many say they don't plan to take it as they see their arrest as a clear violation of their rights.

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