“Our prayer is that this trial can truly be an occasion to continue the transformation process that began at Y-12 on July 28th. We pray for open hearts and minds and for the ongoing conversion of everyone involved in the trial, to the way of love, nonviolence, and justice.
Let us be clear. Sister Megan, Greg, and Michael have committed no crime. Rather it was their intent to prevent a crime, and uphold God’s law and international law.”
— Art Laffin, leading the Transform Now Plowshares supporters in prayer outside the courtroom this morning.
After hours of courtroom tedium yesterday, today our hearts were ready to welcome the voices of our friends.
The government presented its case first, insinuating all sorts of fear, disorder, and extremism, and then the defense reframed the issue. Chris Irwin, like Francis Lloyd after him, emphasized the nonviolence of the defendants — they brought roses not dynamite, bibles not grenades — and he also brought attention to the slow response of security officers. Greg gave his opening statement next. He stood at the podium wearing his Viva House Catholic Worker 40th Anniversary T-shirt, with its inscription, “Love One Another,” as he described his life of service, Megan’s, and Mike’s, and described the convictions that led them to their action. What is real security? What is false security? Nuclear weapons provide only an illusion of safety; true security is a life of service to those in need. Greg ended by quoting a favorite bible passage of Michael’s, exhorting the jury to take seriously their role as the conscience of the community: “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.”
The government ran through its case today from start to finish, calling four witnesses and bringing forward banners, bolt cutters, surveillance videos, recorded jail phone calls and media interviews as evidence.
A few highlights from the government witness testimony:
Steven Erhart, NNSA manager at Y-12
- Erhart tried to differentiate nuclear deterrent (good) from nuclear use (bad). As he explained the U.S. policy of deterrence, his face wore a look of slightly apologetic concern, as if to say he hoped the jury would understand the critical, if unfortunate, nature of Y-12’s mission.
- Bill Quigley read passage after passage from the DOE report concluding that security at Y-12 was “deeply flawed.” Is it true, he asked, that there was a culture of complacency regarding Y-12 security? Erhart equivocated. “It may be better to say, ‘normalization of deviation from the optimum.’ “
- Erhart stated outright, “We [at Y-12] deploy nuclear weapons.” He mentioned both Hiroshima and Nagasaki even before the defense cross-examined him, and Bill Quigley’s cross-examination brought forth damning facts regarding U.S. nuclear war crimes in Japan. Erhart admitted, “The use of a nuclear weapon would be a devastating event.”
- Erhart asserted that nuclear weapons brought about the end of WWII. The government prosecutor asked him to estimate how many lives were saved by the nuclear weapons, but the judge sustained the defense’s objection to that question.
- Francis Lloyd built on Bill Quigley’s exposition of the consequences of nuclear weapons, in order to enlarge the scope of what was being discussed as “security” and make it clear that nuclear weapons are fundamentally insecure. Under Lloyd’s questioning, Erhart admitted that the U.S. has made several mistakes in handling nuclear weapons, and also admitted that such mistakes could cause extensive harm, though that would be “extremely improbable.” However, he was forced to admit that he had also considered a senior citizen break-in at Y-12 “highly improbable” before July 28, 2012.
Sgt. Chad Riggs, second security responder to the Transform Now Plowshares
- Told the jury, “I felt endangered.” To be specific, he felt Michael was the most dangerous of the bunch. From his training, he knew that such individuals as these were likely to have a sniper with them somewhere.
- The government presented surveillance camera footage for Sgt. Riggs to comment on. In this footage, Michael, Megan, and Greg are seen coming through the hole they cut in the inmost fence, and they are then seen standing in front of the HEUMF as Kirk Garland, the first security responder, drives up. Megan bows to him deeply at the waist, her arms outstretched in greeting. The three light candles. They stand facing Garland at a distance of ten feet. We learn later that they are singing and offering him bread.
Officer Kirk Garland, first security responder to the Transform Now Plowshares
- Lost his job in August 2012 because his employers were not satisfied with how he handled the situation on July 28th.
- He said of Michael, Megan, and Greg, “They told me they were sent from God and they wanted to read me a statement. They also read from the Bible, in Isaiah.”
- He was quite confident in identifying the three as peace activists. “I’ve arrested… quite a few of them. I recognize a peace activist when I see one. Not that they have a particular way they dress or anything.” His experience with peace activists included nuns, banners, and blood at Rocky Flats.
Gen. Rodney Johnson, in charge of security operations at Y-12
- Offered numbers mostly, of the cost of repairing the damage to fences and buildings.
- Greg’s cross-examination of Gen. Johnson came out of his expertise as a house painter. There were 100 gallons of paint purchased?! Greg suggested that, given it only takes about a gallon of paint to paint a standard room in a house, 100 gallons was a gross over-purchase.
The government called one more witness, Ryan Baker, special agent with the DOE Office of the Inspector General, and then rested its case.
The stage was set for Sister Megan Rice. Sister Megan took the stand after 5:00pm and spoke for almost an hour, and yet she commanded the attention of every last juror. The whole room listened in rapt attention as she responded to Francis Lloyd’s questions, describing her early childhood realization of the horrors of nuclear weapons, her education in radiation biology in her master’s program at Boston College, and her missionary work in Africa, teaching science and building schools. She spoke of the sacredness of the Nevada desert, taken from the Shoshone people (“illegally, breaking a treaty”) and desecrated by the effects of nuclear testing; she spoke of the suffering of downwinders, the cancer caused in people and animals, and the $6 million apiece spent on each test. She spoke of the transformative power of her participation in the Nevada Desert Experience. Besides the” harmonious vibrations” emitted by the mountains and all the earth, Sister Megan also felt in Nevada “the culture of silence, the culture of secrecy” surrounding weapons testing and its consequences. “It was extremely clarifying about the reality of the military industrial complex of this country.”
Fast-forward to July 28, 2012. As Megan, Greg, and Michael approached Y-12, Megan says they “prayed together, we were filled with love and compassion” for the people who had to work in such a dangerous facility. “We wanted to bring love and healing.”
She felt led by the Holy Spirit, and was more and more surprised to find herself reaching the heart of Y-12. When Francis asked her about the surveillance tape footage and the way she bowed to Mr. Garland, Megan explained the Buddhist tradition of deeply reverencing each living being. In response to questions about the extent of the damage she did, she said lightly, “I could have repaired it!”
As 6:00 approached, Sister Megan was still not quite finished answering Francis’s questions. The judge dismissed the jury anyhow, and when he did, Megan stood, folded her hands in front of her, and bowed to the jurors as they filed past the witness box.
After the jury left, the next half hour was spent presenting arguments for and against acquitting the defendants of the sabotage charge, based on lack of evidence. The decision will hinge on what evidence there is of “specific intent” on the part of the defendants, and whether or not there is enough evidence of specific intent for a reasonable jury to convict the three. Prior Plowshares appeals cases are being taken into consideration. Arguments were also presented as to whether or not Jim Sessions and Ann Wright should be allowed as expert witnesses for the defense. The judge will give his rulings tomorrow.