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Joan Andrews Bell, Jean Marshall, and friends pray the Rosary while awaiting verdict in second D.C. FACE Act trialLifeSiteNews

WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – In this three-part series, LifeSiteNews reporter Louis Knuffke explains why the shockingly biased D.C. trials, at which he was present, could ultimately lead to victory for the unborn.  

The eight pro-lifers of the recent D.C. FACE Act trials are now behind bars with the threat of 11 years in prison hanging over them. With every attempt at a fair trial having failed, and the FACE Act still the law of the land, where do things go now? 

I argue that this case could very well serve as the fulcrum to get the FACE Act struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States and the personhood of the unborn defined by the court.  

The many grounds for appeal in these trials thus ought to give pro-lifers hope for a potentially huge outcome, should a favorable ruling be given to defendants either in an appellate court or, should the case go higher, at the Supreme Court.  

READ: Pro-life rescuers found guilty, immediately taken into custody in second DC FACE Act trial  

Here I want to summarize some of these grounds for appeal as well as point out potential outcomes for the present case, like the repealing of the FACE Act, the prosecution of late term abortionist Cesare Santangelo for infanticide, and the path toward judicial recognition of the personhood of the child in the womb. 


Biased judge, compromised jury, muzzled defense, suppressed evidence: this is obviously about abortion 

That Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly was heavily biased is clear to any objective observer of the FACE Act trials. Indeed, her first proposed legal argument attempting to secure jurisdiction over the case shows how extremely pro-abortion she is.  

When the defense motioned for the case to be thrown out because of lack of legal grounding for federal jurisdiction, given that in Dobbs SCOTUS had sent abortion decisions back to the states, Kotelly scrambled to find something in the Constitution that would justify the case being heard in federal court.   

So desperate was Kotelly to find a clause in the Constitution protecting abortion – thereby securing federal jurisdiction over an abortion case – that she proposed to the defense and prosecution that the Thirteenth Amendment might contain a right to abortion. She proceeded to require of each side legal research and a written opinion on the question. 

The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery after the Civil War. So little did the amendment have to do with abortion that every State that ratified it had universal or near universal laws against abortion either at the time of its adoption or shortly thereafter. Either Kotelly’s proposal was a sick play on the amendment’s words “forced labor” or she equates an unwanted pregnancy to oppression and slavery. 

The attempt to find abortion protected by the Thirteenth Amendment was so far-fetched that the prosecution declined to adopt such an argument. Instead, it argued that the Commerce Law, by which Congress can regulate interstate business, placed the case of abortion access under federal jurisdiction. This allowed Kotelly to then argue that the case had nothing to do with abortion, and she accordingly excluded from the courtroom any argument, testimony, or evidence about the gruesome reality of what abortion is and what it involves. 

READ: DC FACE trial: Pro-life defense not allowed to say ‘infanticide,’ ‘abortion,’ or ‘innocent lives’  

To put this in context, in prior cases when the FACE Act was leveled against pro-lifers, it was often emphasized that the statute was grounded legally on Roe v. Wade. So long as Roe stood, no court would strike down FACE as unconstitutional: Roe stood in the way. But with Dobbs set now as governing precedent, SCOTUS has instructed that all prior rulings based on Roe be vacated in the lower courts. Based on such an instruction, FACE can and ought to be struck down, since the abortion ruling on which it was grounded has been overturned. 

Kotelly’s attempt to ground FACE in the Commerce Act was thus a tacit acknowledgment of the force of the argument that, after Dobbs, FACE lacks legal grounding. 

In addition to bias on the part of the judge, the D.C. FACE Act trials saw clear prejudice on the part of the jury. Most jurors in both trials were donors to abortion giant Planned Parenthood, as well as to the pro-abortion women’s political campaign fundraiser Emily’s List, and the Bridget Alliance, which assists women in crossing state lines to obtain abortions when prohibited by law from doing so locally.  

The pool of potential jurors included even a former legal counsel for the House Judiciary Committee regarding the infamous ERA abortion amendment. Moreover, many jurors admitted they had taken part in numerous abortion marches, rallies, and protests. 

READ: Potential jurors in DC trial of pro-lifers admit to being Planned Parenthood donors, abortion activists  

Then there was the muzzling of the defense with the judge’s suppression of legitimate arguments to be made in the courtroom. Kotelly prohibited the defense from making any arguments that invoked First Amendment rights, such as the argument that Christianity teaches us to protect innocent life, including the unborn, so that rescuers were following a mandate of their religion in trying to save the innocent from murder. Nor were arguments about a person’s good moral character allowed, which would have shown how ridiculous were the characterizations that these pro-life rescuers were “violent criminals” and a danger to society.  

READ: ‘I can love God in prison’: Full statement of pro-lifer Joan Andrews Bell jailed in DC FACE Act trial 

Nor were defense-of-a-person arguments allowed, since these arguments would have effectively exonerated the defendants. All that is required in law for such an argument is evidence that a person had a reasonable belief that another person was in danger and that their actions would protect the one in danger. It is not required to prove that another person really was in danger or that the actions undertaken did protect them.  

Thus, even if the personhood of the baby in the womb were not granted in court, the defendants’ reasonable belief that the unborn are persons and were in danger at the D.C. abortion clinic would have sufficed to legally justify and exonerate their actions. The law would thus require acquittal, if such an argument had been allowed in court. 

The judge also suppressed highly relevant evidence, such as the testimony of Cesare Santangelo caught on video by an undercover Live Action journalist. The video was material to the case because it served as the reason the defendants conducted the rescue at the Washington Surgi-Clinic. It was thus substantive evidence establishing the reasonableness of the defendants’ belief that persons were in danger and in need of protection.  

READ: Infanticide motivated rescue attempt at DC center, Lauren Handy testifies at FACE Act trial 

In the video, Santangelo openly admits to a 24-weeks-pregnant woman that he performs second and third trimester abortions usually by cutting the umbilical cord—thus starving the baby in the womb—and then delivers the baby dead.  

However, when questioned about what he would do were the baby to survive an attempted abortion, Santangelo affirmed that he would leave the child to die, refusing it any assistance or life-saving medical care—medical care that is required by the federal Born Alive Act.  

So not only was the video material evidence related to defense-of-a-person arguments, but it also would have manifested the abortionist’s willingness to commit infanticide in violation of federal statutes regarding exposure of a baby who survives an abortion and in violation of local law regarding the direct murder of a child. 

READ: Prosecutors strike infamous video of late-term abortionist from evidence in DC FACE Act trial 

The discovery of the remains of late-term babies aborted at the Washington-Surgi Clinic, both before and after the October 2020 rescue, corroborates Santangelo’s admission in the video as evidence that illegal infanticide was likely taking place. This would place the peaceful blocking of the clinic wholly outside the FACE Act, since access to infanticide is not protected by FACE. 

A photo of one baby aborted at the Surgi-Clinic shows him or her still wrapped in the amniotic sac. A medical examiner who looked at the body stated that it had no signs of violence, suggesting that the child was born alive and left to die, as Santangelo admitted in the video he had no qualms about doing.  

However, neither the Live Action video, nor photographic evidence of fetal remains, nor the testimony of the medical examiner, nor any studies on late term abortions and the high percentage of them that result in live births, nor any expert testimony on the question were allowed in court, lest, in Judge Kotelly’s words, such things “prejudice the jury,” being “inflammatory” pro-life “propaganda.” 

READ: Jury in FACE Act trial not allowed to see shocking video of DC abortionist describing his work  

Not only was evidence material to the case suppressed, but extremely relevant witness testimony as well. Most tellingly, Cesare Santangelo was not allowed to be called to the witness stand by the defense regarding his open admission on video that he would commit infanticide if a baby survived an abortion.  

The judge must have known that testimony from this infamous late-term abortionist would have been explosive and placed in the national spotlight the bloody, gruesome reality of how abortionists kill the unborn and are willing to let the babies who survive die in basins. 

Part 2, ‘The jailing of pro-lifers in the D.C. FACE Act trials could actually help end abortion in America,’ will appear on Friday, September 22, 2023.