WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) — Closing arguments in the second D.C. FACE Act trial got intense Thursday afternoon when in the middle of defense statements a legal fight over evidence broke out between the defense counsel and the prosecution, requiring the judge to withdraw the jury and consult procedural law for fear of the issue being sent to the appellate court.
Defense lawyer Christopher Davis, who represents defendant Jonathan Darnel, began to use in his statement a social media post that the prosecution had originally indicated would be admitted into evidence but later retracted. The post clearly indicated Darnel’s intention to be non-violent during the course of the pro-life rescue at the Washington Surgi-Clinic on October 22, 2020.
When the government objected to the use of the social media post, Davis showed that it was included in one of the original government exhibits shown to defense counsel and the court clerk. During the trial, the exhibit was then presented and admitted into evidence in a redacted form without attention being drawn to the fact that it was redacted.
The judge sent the jury out of the courtroom temporarily, while the prosecution and the defense hotly debated whether this post – which was clearly in Darnel’s favor and would make it difficult for him to be convicted of “use of force” – could be considered as having been admitted into evidence and so be used in closing statements by the defense.
Caught in a legal quandary and fearing that the matter could be used as grounds for appealing the case, the judge consulted procedural law and finally decided in favor of the prosecution, declaring that only the redacted form had actually been submitted into evidence and so only the redaction could be used by the defense, unless the trial were to be re-opened, which she did not want to do.
Ruffled by the fight over a social media post that would have benefited Darnel against the accusation of “use of force,” the prosecution also jumped to its feet to object and shout down defendant Joan Bell when, after having declined to give a full closing argument, she began simply to explain to the jury that the reason she was silent for most of the trial was to be in solidarity with the unborn. Bell had also chosen to decline legal representation in court by an attorney for the same reason: as an act of solidarity with the defenseless children in the womb killed daily by abortion. However, she was not allowed by the intensely pro-abortion prosecution and judge to say these simple words to the jury, lest it “prejudice” them toward life.
As in the first D.C. FACE Act trial, the prosecution sought to use an emotional appeal to the jury based on the experiences and testimony of two pregnant women who appeared to be nearly full-term when going to the Washington Surgi-Clinic for an abortion on October 22, 2020.
As in the first trial, the prosecution refused to acknowledge the reality of what abortion is, employing the euphemisms “termination of a pregnancy” and “necessary reproductive healthcare.” They also refused to acknowledge the federal crime that Cesare Santangelo, the abortionist at the Surgi-Clinic, admitted he was willing to commit. The admission was caught on video by an undercover journalist of Live Action. In the video, Santangelo declared to a 24-week pregnant woman that he would leave a baby born alive after an attempted and failed abortion exposed to die without offering any life-saving medical care as required by the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act.
In arguing that defendants were guilty of conspiracy against rights – one of the two major charges in the case – the prosecution defined the right in question to be “access to reproductive healthcare” inclusive of abortion, all the while ignoring the fact that the Supreme Court decided in Dobbs that the Constitution does not confer a “right” to abortion, thereby nullifying the claim to a federally or constitutionally guaranteed “right” to abortion.
Knowing that not every defendant charged with violations of the FACE Act could be proven to have personally used “force” or “physical obstruction,” the prosecution was keen to argue that “aiding or abetting” those who did violate FACE rendered a person similarly guilty of violating the law. The prosecution also invoked so-called “co-conspirator liability” – a wholly novel legal argument unknown to American jurisprudence – in their attempt to implicate all defendants in the same conviction of violating FACE.
According to this argument, anyone found guilty of conspiracy to violate the FACE Act – which conspiracy the judge has deliberately defined as broadly as possible – would be guilty of violating FACE as well if it was “reasonably foreseeable” that any “co-conspirators” would violate FACE. In other words, if one is guilty, all are guilty.
Against such arguments, the defense pointed out that the star witness for the prosecution, Caroline Davis, admitted under oath, when cross-examined by the defense, that she did not agree to obstruct access or violate FACE. Only when the government doubled down on Davis in its redirect questions did she change her testimony, insisting that “everyone” agreed to obstruct.
The defense argued that, given the fact that Davis was facing two 10-year prison sentences for pro-life rescues conducted in Michigan prior to reaching a plea agreement with the federal government, and given the fact that the government could still press charges against her – resurrecting the possibility of such imprisonment – should it ever deem she was not sufficiently cooperating as an informant against pro-life rescuers, she should be viewed as “a puppet on a string.”
The defense drew up the text of the cooperation agreement which the government entered into with Davis, pointing out that Davis was promised a recommendation for a three-year probation in place of 20 years in prison in exchange for the testimony she offered in court. This was the “prize” offered by the government and seized by Davis.
Laying out evidence of an instability of character in Davis, the defense pointed out that she was only 24 years old, was married and recently divorced, has relocated several times in recent years, and, with the recent agreement entered into with the government, effectively has decided to cut ties with everyone with whom she was previously associated. The defense recalled that, according to Davis’ own testimony, she “came to see the light” only as of last month, understanding the “error of her ways” upon reaching her plea agreement with the government.
The defense also drew attention to Davis’ demeanor when giving testimony, and to the fact that she made light of the whole situation, manifestly evidencing she had no interest in helping the defense of her former fellow pro-life rescuers.
It was argued by defense attorneys that the defendants were all committed to promoting “non-violent pro-life activism” and that the only person who used violence or force on October 22, 2020, was the administrator of the clinic, who was caught on video clearly using a broomstick, not to protect patients, but to attack the unwanted pro-life rescuers who were making the abortion clinic staff and patients “feel uncomfortable.”
It was also pointed out by the defense that, according to Davis’ own testimony about the meeting that took place the night before the rescue, it was emphasized by Lauren Handy that each person was free to do as they chose and as the Holy Spirit inspired. The defense argued that the only agreement was thus between each person and the Holy Spirit.
“And the Holy Spirit is not part of this indictment,” defense attorney John Machado, representing Jean Marshall, argued.
Darnel’s attorney insisted that he was a “non-violent pro-life activist,” “a soft spoken, kind man, not a terrorist.” “Don’t lose sight of the man you’re judging,” he told the jury.
Similarly, Marshall’s attorney insisted that the evidence showed she was clearly trying to save babies and prevent what she believes to be wrong, and that it showed her to be kind and compassionate. “She was counseling the women to do what she believed to be right… not using violence,” Machado argued.
According to the judge’s stipulations to the defense, before the trial began, no arguments were allowed to be made regarding First Amendment rights and the practice of one’s religion, nor any arguments regarding the defense of another person, nor any substantial arguments regarding good moral character.
Nor were any arguments allowed about the underlying fundamental issues of this case: the reality and gruesomeness of abortion and the substantive evidence that Cesare Santangelo is willing to and has committed infanticide by leaving babies born alive after a failed abortion exposed to die.
The weight of these suppressed arguments becomes clear when it is considered that, were the truth of these arguments to be granted in court and abortion acknowledged to be the murder of an innocent baby, then the very nature of what these protesters did on October 22, 2020, could no longer be characterized as trespassing and obstruction of access to medical care. Instead, their actions would have to be acknowledged as the defense of a little child scheduled to be brutally murdered before being born.
The judge and the prosecution thus artfully excluded the possibility of such an outcome by suppressing all argument, evidence, testimony, and even terminology that might confront the jury and courtroom with the reality of what the pro-life rescuers in these trials went to D.C. to openly oppose: the gruesome and bloody murder of late-term babies in their mother’s womb.
Jury deliberations begin Friday with a possible verdict before the end of the day or early next week. If, as happened in the first trial, defendants are convicted of violating the FACE Act with a special finding of “use of force,” they would be subject to immediate incarceration for a “crime of violence” upon the demand of the prosecution.
Defendants have asked LifeSiteNews readers for their prayers as they await the verdict and potential imprisonment.