“You’re despicable!” Reverend Higgenbotham shouted.
“I did that research,” Ojile yelled, waving his arms like a windmill. “I had a year of law school, and I did every bit of research.”
“Let him lie,” Robert Graf said jadedly.
The defendants then went into a deafmute pantomime, refusing to speak in the absence of the jury. Some sitting, others standing, pencils poised in midair, books in hand, they stayed utterly motionless like statues. “Father Alfred Lawrence Janicke, will you state what you intend to prove through the testimony of this witness?” No response. “Do you refuse to answer, Father?” No response. “Let the record show,” the judge droned, “that Father is looking straight at the judge of this Court, that he is within easy hearing distance, and has refused to answer both questions….
It was the tensest day of the trial. The storm reached its peak after Father Rosenbaugh elaborated on how the Vietnam war was crippling the nation’s war on poverty. The Court interrupted the testimony as irrelevant. Samson, in an increasingly frequent moment of leniency, asked the Court to take notice of that testimony, even though it was immaterial, because “everyone knows that the war is taking money away from urban planning.” Judge Larson replied that the Court should shut off such testimony because it “would be giving dignity to their position, which I don’t think should be done.”
“How can you be a judge in this courtroom and say a thing like that?” James Forest cried, and walked threateningly toward the well of the courtroom.
“The Court had best explain what it means is that it does not want to give dignity to an irrelevant defense.”
“I don’t think you should explain,” Doug Marvy said, “I think you should resign.”
Gettleman was dismissed. He had traveled from New York to Milwaukee without being allowed to answer a question. The defendants henceforward had to rely on their extraordinary moral passion.
Robert Graf: I entered that building with much of the same intention with which I’d entered the Society of Jesus, in order to be of service in some way to other men….
Father Mullaney: There were three states of mind in particular which I think were important on September 24th. The first of these is a really felt need to be responsible. And there are three things I think that define a monk that are connected to responsibility:
The first of these is being a Benedictine with 1400 years of tradition, the motto of the order having always been peace. The second is that the vows of the monk can be summed up as a single vow to set up the conditions whereby man can be fully human….
The third characteristic of the monastic life that has defined it down through the ages is that the monk is supposed to be a sign of hope, he is supposed to be a sign that history can be moved in the direction laid down in the Gospels, and therefore a sign that we are responsible for history and the direction that history takes.
The Mullaney testimony went on some three hours and was composed in strict Thomist style, I-a, I-b, I-c. It was delivered in a luminous, booming voice into a suddenly still courtroom.
The second frame of mind that was very important that day was the anger that stems from a correct assessment of a present moment in history. My anger comes out of two places, one is the college scene, and the second is the urban scene. My anger on September 24th was very definitely based on first-hand evidence that I had that the draft was doing violence to the consciences of youg men, that it was doing real psychological damage to young men.
The second place that was very important in my life, in terms of my intent on September 24th, was the fact that two years ago I was granted a leave from St. Anselm’s Abbey to go to the city, an act, which, historically, is very common within the history of monasticism in time of social crisis. And I went to that section of Boston that is known as Roxbury, that section of the city where poverty is perhaps at its worst. At the abbey, with my books, I could and did build up an elaborate system of defenses that kept me from responding to the enormous injustices of our society. In Roxbury, your defenses are shattered the day you arrive….
The Court conducted a half-hour dispute about the “irrelevance” of poverty in Roxbury, Massachusetts. The clinical psychologist picked up at point three.
The third state of mind that I think was very important in my own case was what can only be described as fear…of a very deep and very pervasive polarization that is going on in the United States; by polarization I mean that we are a nation that’s very, very seriously divided…black-white, rich-poor, young-old, a pervasive and very, very deep polarization.
Now there are four reasons which give rise to this particular fear that grew out of polarization: Number one, the ineffectiveness of speech in American life. Secondly, the growing gap between the powerful and the powerless. Also, the growing priority of things over people. And finally, the distorted priorities—the Vietnam war versus the City…
And so, on September 24th, I participated in the burning of draft records as my attempt to say something about the polarization, which, if it is not checked, is going to lead to great disaster in this nation. I participated in what I considered a very beautiful liturgy, and this is the work of the monk….
The tall, grave priest continued, I-a-1, I-a-2….
Now through my participation, I intended the following:
Firstly, I intended to show in a society where speech is in such danger of being stifled, that man as public speaker is still alive.
Secondly, I intended to show in a society where the inadequacies of legal channels for redressing injustices is apparent, that civil disobedience is part of due process in that society, I acted to affirm that law in a free society compels obedience only when it furthers the justice that enables men to lead a more fully human life.
Third, I intended to show in a society whose structures are becoming so rigid, whose leaders are so intransigent, that social crises are not being confronted in a way proportionate to their magnitude, that organized controlled non-violent civil disobedience is still capable of effecting change in policy.
Fourthly, in a society where so many leaders act as though law and order are independent of justice, I acted to affirm my respect for law.
Fifthly, I intended to show, in a society where participation in critical decisions which affect one’s life and death are becoming less and less, that there must be an increase in one’s power to make what ought to be become a reality.
Sixthly, I intended to affirm that I was equally concerned as those who are in prison today, for reasons of conscience….
“Father,” Judge Larson interrupted very gently. Mullaney was the defendant whose grave and impeccable manner had most endeared him to the Court and the prosecution. “Father, are you still giving reasons why you participated on the 24th of September?”
Indeed Father Mullaney had a seventh reason to add to his Summa. It was a 1500-word press release which the Milwaukee Fourteen had handed to reporters at the time of their action. Notwithstanding some objections from the Court that Father was giving “an oration on social matters” he was allowed to read through this entire document.
“That’s the end of my statement,” Father Mullaney said modestly after three hours on the stand.
“Tony, Reverend Doctor,” Fred Ojile began his cross-examination, “when does the question of who determines destruction of property become pertinent in the decision-making process?”
“The decision to destroy property has to be confronted whenever the person has reasonably concluded that there is no longer any relationship between that property and the enhancement of those values to which he is committed, through his membership in various comunities such as the American community, the Family of Nations, and so forth. In other words, when property no longer enhances the dignity of the person. Property is an instrument, it does not have substantial value, it has instrumental value.”
(A definition of property straight out of St. Thomas Aquinas.)
At the beginning of the trial, Harold Jackson, Jr., the assistant District Attorney, had described his emotions toward the defendants as “one of intense anger and hatred, because I’m Catholic and violently against the war, and black, and their actions seem to polarize all the sentiments against us liberals.” But the defendants’ testimonies, however often he interrupted them, seemed to affect him even more deeply than they seemed to affect Samson. “I’m more torn by this case than at the beginning,” he admitted at mid-trial; “I see nothing but honesty and intelligence here, depth of perception and integrity, an atmosphere that I can only describe as very loving.”
Later, toward the end of the trial, after Mullaney had been speaking with particular moral passion, Jackson obviously upset, asked that the jury be dismissed from the room.
“The state is very much opposed to the position it finds itself in,” he said, “because both counsels for the State do not think that the war in Vietnam is irrelevant in and of itself. We find it to be irrelevant in terms of the act for which we are prosecuting. And we request that this Court instruct the jury as to the legal reasons why certain evidence is not admissible. We request that it not be done in terms of the customary lawyer’s nomenclature…it is impossible for the State represented by human beings to sit here any longer having it said that they believe in and of themselves that poverty and the war are irrelevant.”
His voice broke. “I just can’t take it,” he said.
But the defendants were merciless. “He’s put out,” Doug Marvy said, “and I think that’s just plain tough. We tried to put into evidence a list of war deaths, and the reason that this list is here is because of individuals who follow rules at the expense of individuals’ lives, and I think it’s tough if it’s really hard on him. He says he doesn’t know what to do, and I see four doors in this room and that’s a perfectly reasonable choice for him. He can quit any time.”
Two weeks later, after the State trial was over, Harold Jackson left his district attorney’s job to work exclusively with black civil rights cases. “Negroes in this country are being sent to jail like Jews to Auschwitz,” he said in his office on his last day there. “There’s not enough legal talent around to help them….