From Wounded Knee to Fort Hood Memoirs of a movement lawyer By Jim Simons up to the police station, where throngs of cops and Wounded Knee people stood eyeing each other warily, and Hillbilly is puffing away at a torpedo joint in the back seat. \(Later Bernardo was to steal a flashlight from a patrol car parked in front of the station with cops everywhere I thought that night would never end. Now it seems like a surreal flicker, atypical of my whole Wounded Knee experience. I survived and John survived and Hillbilly got off on all the charges against him \(only to be badly beaten and shoved off a bridge somewhere by a few bloods who reportedly did not share his poliIBer, -nardo. The last draft case r `: I hesitate to call this the highpoint of my experience as a Movement lawyer, if only because the actual living of it was so bizarre. But maybe, in a sense, it was;fhe highpointor endpoint. That was the summer of 1974, and not much has hap pened in the Movement since then. l”Ve handled only one case in the intervening two-and-a-half years having anything to do with the Movement. In February, 1975, before a federal jury in San Antonio, I was defense counsel in the last draft case to be tried in Central Texas. I represented a young man whose request for conscientious objector status had been denied six years before by a notoriously hardline draft board in rural South Texas. Like many others, he had fled the country to avoid the war in Vietnam. For five years he lived in Canada and Switzerland, taught in various schools, and traveled. In October of 1974, he returned to Austin and was immediately arrested on a 1969 indictment. His case was assigned to a reactionary and tyrannical federal judge who wasted no time setting a trial date. On Feb. 1, I found myself picking jurors from a panel dominated by government employees. I had some help and moral support from my friend and mentor, Maury Maverick Jr. But it was slim pickings. One juror was a relative of the state draft board official, the government’s key witness. After coaxing from the woman a pledge of impartiality, the judge kept her on the jury. There was a good defense to the charge, one that should have been recognized by the prosecutor. He told me in private that he could not make a motion to dismiss the indictment because the judge had let him know he wanted the case tried. At the conclusion of the evidence, I requested a charge to the jury on our defense. The judge refused to give .the charge. With the charge they did take into the jury room, it was surprising they deliberated at all, much less threeand-a-half hours, before convicting. My client had been free on bond before the trial. Upon receipt of the jury’s verdict, the judge, without hesitating to excuse the jury, ordered the bond revoked and the defendant taken into immediate custody. The jurors looked stricken, and so did the prosecutor, who had no idea the judge would behave like this. The marshals managed to shove my client into a wall and open a cut over his eye while placing him in a detention cell. Five-page diatribe Soon afterwards, the judge sentenced him to three years in the penitentiary and personally interceded with the Justice Department to block his release under President Ford’s clemency program. Thanks to the ACLU Amnesty Project in New York, I was able to fly to East Texas, file a writ, and spring my client from the Texarkana Federal Prison pending appeal, but not before he had spent about six weeks behind bars. The judge went on to do something I had never seen or heard of before or since. He wrote a five-page diatribe accusing my client of all sorts of things for which there was no support in the trial record. In a gratuitous and unprecedented attempt to keep him from parole before his full three-year term was served, the judge submitted this extraordinary document for inclusion in the parole record. I wrote a sharply worded February 25, 1977 19
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