In 1960, five black students at Alton Technical College protested Jim Crow segregation laws by peacefully sitting at a “whites only” lunch counter at the Woolworth’s dime store in Jackson, Mississippi. Refusing to leave when police arrived, they were arrested and charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct. The five black students pled “not guilty” and opted for a jury trial.
The trial began with voir dire, the phase when potential jurors are questioned as to their suitability to serve on the jury. Ten potential jurors admitted that they were members of the Ku Klux Klan, financially supported the KKK, attended KKK rallies, believed black people were not the equal of whites, and supported segregation. The judge presiding over the trial did not strike “for cause” six of these jurors because when asked if they could be impartial and unbiased in weighing the evidence the jurors said, “yes,” despite their strongly held racist views. Four of these racists managed to sit on the jury.
I will happily assume that readers of this article are appalled that a judge would permit committed racists to serve on the jury of black civil rights activists. Surely, though stating they could be fair and impartial, it is most likely, if not completely assured, that such jurors could never be truly “fair and impartial” and that no one really expects they could be or would be unbiased.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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On August 9, 2023, five pro-lifers filed into the federal courtroom of Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. They are five of ten pro-lifers who, on October 22, 2020, conducted a pro-life rescue at the Washington Surgi-Center where unborn children are killed through the ninth month of gestation by abortionist Cesare Santangelo.
This is the same abortion center where, on March 25, 2022, the driver of a medical waste truck arrived at the center and handed boxes containing one hundred and fifteen aborted babies to Lauren Handy and Terrisa Bukovinac when the two pro-lifers, who were present at the “clinic,” asked for them. One hundred and ten of those victims, aborted in the first trimester, have already been buried.
However, five of Santangelo’s victims are very large babies, clearly killed well into the second trimester and possibly the third. Four of the victims have bodies still largely intact. The bodies were confiscated by the FBI during a raid on the rowhouse where Handy was living at the time. They are being “kept on ice” to this very day at the Washington, D.C., medical examiner’s office.
Autopsies, yet to be conducted, may reveal that Santangelo killed these late-term unborn babies in illegal abortion methods. Since obtaining the bodies, Handy joined the newly formed Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU), and PAAU members gave names to the five victims: Harriet, Christopher X, Holly, Ángel, and Phoenix.
Handy, the lead defendant in America v. Handy, is joined by Will Goodman, John Hinshaw, Heather Idoni, and Herb Geraghty. Their very dedicated and able attorneys are Robert Dunn, John Kiyonaga, Alfred Guillaune, Blerina Jasari, Martin Cannon, Steve Crampton, and Howard Walsh. The latter three are associated with the Thomas More Society, the pro-life legal defense group headquartered in Chicago.
Four other pro-lifers, Jonathan Darnell, Paulette Harlow, Jean Marshall, and well-known pro-life activist Joan Andrews Bell, will be tried before the same judge beginning September 6th. One pro-lifer, whose situation I will discuss later, “copped a plea” with the Department of Justice in order to avoid prosecution.
The pro-lifers have been charged with the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), with a maximum one-year jail term and an additional federal charge of conspiracy to interfere with civil rights that carries a maximum ten year jail term and a maximum $350,000 fine. Thus, altogether, the pro-lifers, should they be convicted, are facing a possible eleven years in federal prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines!
The FACE act states:
Whoever by force or threat of force or by physical obstruction, intentionally injures, intimidates or interferes with or attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person because that person is or has been, or in order to intimidate such person or any other person or any class of persons from, obtaining or providing reproductive health services.
The author of this article has personal experience with the FACE act, passed by Congress in 1994 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on May 20th of that year. Fourteen days later, June 4, 1994, members of my pro-life group, Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, performed a rescue at the Affiliated Medical Services abortion center in Milwaukee. They were the first pro-lifers to be accused of violating FACE and stand trial in federal court. Swiftly convicted, after only a two-day trial, two of the rescuers were sentenced to six months in federal prison. One of them, twenty-one-year-old Michael Suhy, would later become Fr. Michael Suhy.
Twenty-nine years later, so many aspects of the current FACE trial are historically unprecedented. Charges were brought after a grand jury investigation. This was followed by a seven-state FBI sting operation in which agents literally burst into the homes of two defendants with battering rams and guns drawn, dragging pro-lifers out in the dead of night. These are the first pro-lifers to be charged with the federal law of conspiracy to interfere with civil rights—causing them to face the possible additional ten-year jail term. The FBI conducted a seven-state sting operation in which agents literally burst into the homes of two defendants with battering rams and guns drawn, dragging pro-lifers out in the dead of night.Tweet This
It’s the first case in which pro-lifers were pressured by the DOJ with spending time in jail should they be convicted, prompting the defendant mentioned earlier, the unmarried father of two young children, to plead “guilty” to all charges and thus “cut a deal” with the feds. However, this “deal” wasn’t much of a break, as he was still stuck with a ten-month jail term in federal prison! One must wonder, if that’s what you get in a plea agreement, what can the other pro-lifers who opted to stand trial expect should they be convicted!
The Tragedy of Caroline Davis
Finally, also unprecedented in the history of pro-life activism is the testimony of Caroline Davis—who, once full of zeal to end abortion, even participating in rescues, including a Red Rose Rescue with this author, will be testifying for the prosecution against the pro-lifers! Davis was arrested in two other rescues and charged with FACE, and she was present at the rescue at Santangelo’s abortion center.
However, she was threatened with the same charges as the other defendants for merely being there in support of the rescue. To avoid prosecution, she “cut a deal” with the feds. As part of that deal, she had to agree to testify against the pro-lifers. In an FBI interview, she completely disavowed pro-life rescues, saying that she now sees the “error of her ways.” The FBI report states that: “Davis doesn’t see this as stabbing [the pro-lifers] in the back because they are stabbing themselves in the front.” Davis now works as a paralegal for a law firm in Georgia.
Jury selection began on August 9th with 154 prospective jurors. They were given a card on which to note answers to no less than 34 voir dire questions. The really significant questions, the ones that would reveal jurors’ views on abortion, were numbers 20, 21, and 22. Question 20:
In this trial “abortion” will be mentioned, but this case is not about abortion not whether it is right or wrong, just or unjust —it’s about whether clinics have a right to operate. Do you have any beliefs about abortion that would render you to not be fair and impartial in this case?
Have you ever belonged to or contributed to any group that advocates for or against abortion?
Have you or a close friend or family member ever participated in any demonstration either for or against abortion?
Jury Selection in Pro-Abortion La La Land
Voir Dire in this pro-life case was jury selection in pro-abortion la la land. On the first day, four jurors answered “Yes” to questions 20, 21, and 22—and they were all pro-abortion. Two of these potential jurors admitted to donating to Planned Parenthood, supported legalized abortion, and stated that access to abortion was important to them. One potential juror said his wife donated to PP, but he didn’t really have a problem with it and supported the “services” offered by Planned Parenthood.
Another potential juror, a thirty-something female, said that she actually attended women’s marches in D.C. because the marches, among other “women’s issues,” supported abortion. She said that she had very committed views in support of abortion and believed access to abortion was important. Furthermore, she was employed as the media consultant for a congresswoman who supported legalized abortion.
One young Hispanic prospective juror said he actually donated money directly to abortion centers in Florida, attended pro-abortion rallies, was very concerned about maintaining access to abortion, and even attended a protest at the Supreme Court against the Dobbs decision. He also admitted that he disapproved of persons who denied women access to abortion! However, when pressed on this point by pro-life attorney John Kiyonaga, this potential juror said that he got along with members of his family who were pro-life—giving the impression that despite his vehement support for abortion, he could still be fair and impartial.
Here are potential jurors, totally committed to abortion, who personally advocate for abortion—and yet Judge Kollar-Kotelly did not strike any of them for cause! And why? Because all these jurors had to do, despite their commitment to the legalized killing of babies, was say the magic words: “I can still be fair and impartial.”
Let’s not forget—the pro-lifers are charged with FACE. FACE is specifically about securing access to abortion—and these pro-lifers are accused of physically preventing access to abortion by blocking doors and hallways. Even when the pro-life attorneys called for the judge to strike these pro-abortion potential jurors for cause because they said they believed access to abortion was important, Kollar-Kotelly actually defended them, saying: “But access to abortion is legal and it’s a good thing for jurors to support what is legal,” meaning that they could not be struck for cause.
In an attempt to learn if jurors could agree to be “fair and impartial, echoing question 20, Kollar-Kotelly repeatedly told potential jurors:
This trial has nothing to do with abortion. If you serve on this jury you will not be deciding if abortion is right or wrong, just or unjust. This trial is only about access to reproductive care and whether clinics that provide such care should operate free of interference.
Of course, everyone knows the term “reproductive care” is nothing more than code for “abortion.”
However, it is simply not possible to separate the question of whether abortion is “right or wrong, just or unjust” from “access” to abortion. It’s insane to actually expect someone to believe abortion is unjust—unjust because it is the direct killing of innocent persons—but yet support “access” to the killing of innocent persons. This is exactly as if Kollar-Kotelly were to say: “This trial is not about whether the institution of slavery is right or wrong, just or unjust. It’s only about whether there should be access to slave markets—whether such markets should be able to operate free of interference.”
One pro-life potential juror, when pressed by the prosecutor, just could not bring himself to agree that there should be access to abortion. The closest he could come on whether he could be “fair and impartial” was to say: “I am only half certain.” That, of course, was not enough for Kollar-Kotelly and he was struck.
A Fair and Impartial Jury?
After five days of voir dire, a twelve-person jury was finally sworn in on August 16th. Of the twelve, four jurors actively support abortion. Another two are in “gay marriages” and referred to their same-sex partners during questioning as “my husband.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that the two homosexual jurors support “a woman’s right to choose.” However, demographically, those who support “gay rights” are opposed, even hostile, to the right-to-life movement.
Yet, there is something ironic that homosexuals will stand in judgment of these pro-lifers. One defendant, Herb Geraghty, is a woman who has transitioned to a male identity—and moreover is an atheist. If the jurors knew this about Geraghty one wonders if this would transition their view in favor of the pro-lifers, since, while they may not approve of Geraghty’s opposition to abortion, they may loathe convicting someone who undoubtedly is closely allied to their LGBTQ+ philosophy regarding sexual ethics and gender identity.
Here is another reason why this trial of pro-lifers is unprecedented. For the first time in the history of the movement, an atheist transgendered person is standing trial in a case involving the defense of the unborn. Indeed, Geraghty, who also was not arrested during the rescue, only very briefly entering the abortion center, was offered the DOJ plea deal, under threat of being prosecuted. To the great credit of this defendant, Geraghty refused the offer—which apparently would have resulted in a ten month jail term in any case! Would that committed Christians had the integrity, courage, and commitment of this transgendered atheist!
The Judge’s Gag Orders
Once the jury was sworn-in, opening arguments commenced, but not before Kollar-Kotelly told defense attorneys what they were forbidden to say to the jurors. Weeks ago, she already denied defense motions on “defense of others,” and “defense of necessity.” After all, in a pre-Dobbs world, the unborn were not considered others. For the purposes of the right-to-life, they didn’t even exist. And post-Roe, they still may as well not exist depending on their geographical location!
Since killing the unborn is legal, the necessity defense is denied as there is no harm, no evil committed, that would make it necessary for laws to be broken to prevent such evils. Thus, defense attorneys could not mention these defenses. Nor could they make any arguments regarding First Amendment protections, or any Constitutional protections; selective or vindictive prosecution; unlawful actions of abortionist Santangelo; jury nullification; that the charges were unjust, immoral, or contrary to natural law; nor let jurors know the pro-lifers are charged with felonies and with a jail term up to 11 years. Nor were they permitted to say anything about the good character of the defendants.
On the afternoon of August 16th, the prosecution began its case. Two abortion center workers testified, accusing the pro-lifers of actually injuring them. One even presented photos of a sprained ankle, but jurors got to see her on video wielding a broomstick against passive pro-lifers.
A woman who actually came to the abortion center for “reproductive services” took the stand. Pro-lifer Bernadette Patel was in court and provides this account of her testimony:
She was 27 years old (so 24 when the rescue occurred) and lives in Pennsylvania. She traveled to D.C. using some kind of abortion travel agency that paid for her appointment and travel lodgings. She came to D.C. with her boyfriend and was expected to stay three days because of how late-term the pregnancy was. She talked about how the first two days of the procedure were prep sessions while the third day was the “operation.” She said “protestors” were yelling at her: “How can you do this? We can help you!!” And then even said: “They were not necessarily blocking me but walking by my side.”
About halfway through the testimony, the prosecution showed the security camera footage as well as the police footage. It showed an extremely pregnant woman (at least seven or eight months) who was desperately trying to get inside the facility. She cussed at the pro-lifers and walked around, giving multiple views of her very extended abdomen. She tried to get past Heather Idoni, who was blocking the staff entrance. Heather even told the police officer: “Look at her baby, it’s so full of life!” Finally, the woman, so desperate to enter the clinic, jumped through the window at the reception desk and went inside. Sadly, she said that the “procedure” was finished that day, affirming that her seven-month-old baby was killed. At this point, she started tearing up about the event.
It was unclear to those listening to this woman whether she wept over the killing of her baby or because she was emotionally distraught that “protestors” tried to prevent her from gaining access to the abortion center.
And then, Caroline Davis took the stand. She served the prosecution by describing in detail what she knew about the planning strategies of pro-life rescuers and what firsthand knowledge she had about the planning for the rescue at Santangelo’s, having attended at least one of those sessions. Her testimony is meant to be used to convict the pro-lifers on the more serious conspiracy charge that carries the ten-year sentence.
Apparently, Davis was not required by her plea agreement to check her pro-life convictions at the door. Before the jurors, to her credit, she referred to abortion as “killing the unborn,” used the words “abortion,” “abortionists,” and “abortion clinics,” described rescues as “peaceful acts of defense, acts meant to be life-saving.” This will likely be the only time such testimony will be given without constant objections from the prosecutors once the defendants take the stand and attempt to present the truth about abortion to the jurors.
This article began with a story. But it is actually a fictitious analogy to demonstrate the absurdities of this pro-life trial. Yes, there were whites-only lunch counter protests that resulted in arrests, but most of those protestors were tried before a judge and there is no historical record that actual Klansmen sat on juries in those cases.
Nonetheless, the analogy is potent. As we would not expect a judge to permit committed racists to sit in judgment of those on trial for advocating racial equality, it is certainly quite obvious that people who advocate and support the legalized killing of the unborn similarly are unfit to judge pro-lifers who tried to stop such killing. But that’s exactly the absurdity going on right now in federal courtroom number 28! We would not expect a judge to permit committed racists to sit in judgment of those on trial for advocating racial equality; so also people who support the legalized killing of the unborn similarly are unfit to judge pro-lifers.Tweet This
And the bodies of five victims of abortionist Santangelo remain locked in a cold, dark vault at the D.C. medical examiner’s office. Defense attorneys had hoped that these babies would show that Santangelo killed them in unlawful abortion methods—such as partial birth abortions. As is the case in nearly all trials involving pro-lifers who are charged with crimes for their defense of the unborn, judges make sure the aborted unborn remain silent and hidden from the jurors, who will never be instructed to consider that the defendants acted to save lives.
Indeed, Kollar-Kotelly even blamed the pro-lifers in her written order denying defense of others when she stated: “Imminence is required; a defendant may not don a vigilante’s hood to insert themselves into a situation of their own making and subsequently claim defense of a third person to justify their actions.” So, Santangelo’s scheduled killing of the unborn was not “imminent”—and since the unborn really don’t exist, there are no “third persons” who need to be defended anyway!
Reality is kept out of the courtroom. As a Michigan judge once said to me: “I don’t operate in the objective world.” When a pro-lifer stands trial in a case in which the truth of abortion is formally denied, it’s as if he were the only sane person in an insane asylum.