- Photo by Paul courtesy of the Portland Occupier
As first reported by the Portland Occupier, the first actual trial related to an Occupy Portland protest got under way this week. Occupier Jonathan Zook, charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, interfering with an officer, and assaulting an officer, sat through jury selection yesterday and then watched this morning as the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office presented its case.
Zook's case, according to the Occupier, illustrates one reason why the DA's office has been so keen not to let too many other occupiers follow.
The surprise was that, unlike some depictions of Occupy Portland in corporate media, the sympathies of Portland’s citizens were very much with the Occupiers. At the onset of questioning, Judge Immergut asked if anyone thought the subject matter would prevent them from making an impartial decision. Three hands immediately went up, all from candidates who admitted a heavy bias in favor of Occupy Portland. Two individuals said they knew people involved with Occupy Portland, and, regardless of police testimony, they wouldn’t be able to discount what they knew to be true from speaking to their friends and co-workers. Another person was even more vigorous in asserting this position and did not mince words. “All the witnesses for the prosecution are police officers,” she said. “ I’ve seen this too many times. I can’t trust them to be honest.” These three candidates were excused.
As previously reported by the Mercury, a few dozen Occupy cases could one day go to court. Following a decision in February by Multnomah County Judge Cheryl Albrecht, some Occupiers whose cases would otherwise have been pushed through the courts—as violations, which are treated like traffic citations—could wind up with jury trials. Or, thanks to a lot of legal battling between defense lawyers and prosecutors, maybe not. We'll find out, maybe, when Albrecht rules on the latest round of motions and counter-motions on Monday, April 30.
That doesn't apply to Zook’s case because Albrecht isn't his judge, but his case (with the favorable jury pool) could nonetheless act as a testing ground for future trials. And this is pretty much what defense lawyers for Occupy have suspected. Many of these lawyers say that if their clients can actually get their day in court, Portland juries would be sympathetic.
As a bonus, just in case you were curious, Jeff Howes, the deputy DA who oversees all misdemeanor cases,
has sent over the latest breakdown of Occupy Portland cases currently in the courts.
Active cases: 94 (down from about 120 earlier this year)