Note: Homrich 9 press conference and rally 8:45am Wednesday 11/25
by Bill Wylie-Kellermann
This is a quick report on the Homrich “9” trial in progress – though only Marian Kramer and myself are actually on trial before a jury. The remaining group have been separated off by prosecution motion and are involved in an important legal battle over the right to the “necessity defense” which argues that an act was justified if it prevented or was intended to prevent imminent harm. Water shut-offs are a great case for that and we are now able to demonstrate the we cut shut-offs by 90% on July 18, 2014. Marian and I have been able to go to trial because we withdrew our objections to the prosecutor’s motion precluding the defense, so we cannot call expert witnesses or have the jury instructed about the defense.
It took us three full days to select a jury and get to opening statements. Mine is attached. The prosecution has had us going back and forth to Circuit Court on motions to deny this or that. The latest was today and I’ll insert a report from attorney John Royal recounting that:
Just to bring everyone up to date: Marian, I and Bill agreed before Court today to waive the duress/necessity/justification defense in order to forestall the city’s attempt to stay the trial. In fact, Mimi Mullins started out the day asking Judge Garrett for a stay. So we agreed on the record we were not asserting the defense and would not be asking for an instruction on it Mimi then asked for a stay so they could appeal Judge Garrett’s apparent willingness to let in testimony on: the concept that water is a right; the emergency manager; the bankruptcy; the water affordability plan; and many other things. Judge Garrett denied a stay.
Sure enough, at 11:00 a.m., Shannon entered the courtroom and announced the City was asking Judge Hathaway to stay the trial based on their desire to appeal Judge Garrett’s anticipated evidentiary rulings. She served us with her pleadings. Judge Garrett let us out of the trial to go to Judge Hathaway’s Court. The assistant City attorney Tiffany Boyd took the City’s motion to Judge M. Hathaway and argued it. Bill and I appeared in opposition, and specifically told Judge Hathaway that we had waived all rights to assert the duress defense. . Judge M. Hathaway said he was not going to micromanage Judge Garrett’s evidentiary rulings. However, it was clear to me that if the issue of the duress defense was still on the table, he would have granted the stay. So our strategy of giving up the duress defense in order to keep the trial going was successful.
Today the prosecution’s case involved 3 Homrich demolition truck drivers. Their case was to show that we had slowed or prevented a number of demolitions on July 18. One of those was an operating engineer from Local 324. Mostly they demonstrated that we blocked the drive for 7 hours without being arrested until 2pm. One of them did say we screamed and shouted and threw things.
Officer Fuliluv also testified that the police were there that entire time without moving in. She was able to verify a group of photographs which we will use through the course of the trial. She said we were peaceful throughout.
Then, the prosecution put on the Homrich supervisor in charge of the yard and of managing contracts. He verified the demolition difficulties that we had caused. I was glad to cross-examine him first. It turned out that “contracts” meant the $5.2 million contract with the city to do water shut-offs. This was their witness! When asked about the yard, he reported that there were 10 shut-off trucks inside (more than I even guessed). John asked if he had been questioned by any media about the demolition work (presumeable thinking of Charlie LeDuff) and even asked if he had been questioned by any federal investigators before the question was struck. John was able to put before him the info that we have received from DWSD and the Company and ask about our summary:
Total shut-off by Homrich 5/1/14 – 7/18/14
Shutoffs – 15,601
Total shut-off and turn-ons by Homrich 7/16/14
Shut offs – 458
Turn ons -87
Total shut-off and turn-ons by Homrich 7/17/14
Shut-offs – 483
Turn-ons – 86
Total shut-off and turn-ons by Homrich 7/18/14
Turn-ons – 4
We resume in the morning Tuesday at 9:30am. The prosecution has 2 more witnesses. We could begin our defense by 11:30 or perhaps after lunch.
My opening statement follows:
Opening Statement – Homrich trial 11/20/15
Thank you for serving on this jury. I myself am called to serve on a jury the week after Thanksgiving so, depending on how long this trial goes, I could be very soon sitting in your seat. Part of me frets about how I’ll do it after a week of trial (who will cover pastoral calls and soup kitchen), but I do understand the importance of it, especially given the seat I’m in today. I’m a native-born Detroit and honored to be counted among the people of Detroit, eligible for a jury, part of a body that brings conscience and care to serving justice in the City.
I’m also honored to be on trial with Marian Kramer. She is one of my friends and mentors in the ministries of social justice. We will put her on the stand so you will get to hear about her life and work and so see for yourselves what I’m saying.
I’m representing myself in this case. That’s somewhat unusual, but you heard Judge Garrett explain that it is my right, one I’m exercising. In a certain sense, the action that you will see recounted speaks for itself in many ways. We trust it was clear as it stands. The opportunity to speak for myself directly to you about it only enhances its truth. I’m a pastor, not a lawyer. I’m not studied in the law, though I do believe that both the gospel and the law should serve justice. [Prosecutor: Objection, your honor, this trial is not about the gospel.]
There are going to be objections in this trial as we go forward, from both sides. There are a number of things that I think are crucial to this trial that the prosecutor believes are irrelevant and should not be mentioned. In any event I’ll be doing my best to navigate the rules of court.
You will hear described, by officers, by ourselves and our friends, even see video of the events from July 18,2014 – when we went to the driveway of Homrich Inc., a private demolition company contracted by the city for $5.2 million to do water shut-offs, tens of thousands of them. You will see us gather, pray and sing, and then stand in the driveway for 7 1/12 hours. You’ll see the cops across the street the whole time, before we were finally arrested. And you will hear from one of our friends who was arrested with us, but never charged.
We expect to put ourselves on the stand. So that we can talk about our intent, what we were thinking when we did this action. We’ll explain what we knew from our own experience about people who had their water shut off. And about other things we had attempted in order to prevent the harm. You will hear read a statement by National Nurses United, issued just the day before, about the public health crisis in the city. You will see us deliver to Homrich a press statement from the United Nations saying that to turn off the water of people who can’t afford to pay is a violation of human rights. [Objection, hour honor]
I have to say I and others have waited a long time to bring this case to you. It’s now going on a year and a half, but events are still vivid to us, because they were full of meaning. When we were arraigned last summer, we asked immediately for a jury trial. Back then, you may remember that every elected official in the City of Detroit had been replaced by one man – the Emergency Manager – who had put the city into bankruptcy. The elected school board had been replaced by emergency management. Even the Library commission was under assault. So we were mindful that a jury of Detroiters represented the last remaining form of democracy in the city. We were eager to put this case before you to vote on the matters of justice.
What I would ask of you in these days at hand: keep your eyes open; keep your ears open, your hearts open, your conscience open. Look for the meaning and spirit of these events. If you do that I will gladly put myself in your hands. Thank you again for serving in this way.
Bill Wylie-Kellermann Pastor, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church – Detroit 313-841-7554 313-433-1967 http://stpetersdetroit.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax66dj2DBMUhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax66dj2DBMU https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UchOmC7HMK8&feature=youtu.be http://www.orbisbooks.com/william-stringfellow.html http://wipfandstock.com/store/Seasons_of_Faith_and_Conscience_Explorations_in_Liturgical_Direct_Action http://www.wordandworld.org http://www.scupe.com