Trident on Trial…Reflections on our Arraignment

Trident on Trial

Reflection on our arraignment–Susan Crane


Walking to the courthouse. Abolish Nuclear Weapons!


Our plowshares action had been 11 months ago, and today, October 8, we were getting arraigned.  I was expecting to be held in custody, as was Steve, and possibly Bix.   Clothes were packed, sheets folded, keys given back…all manner of preparation in place.

Additionally, I carried with me a motion to dismiss and hoped to make the motion orally in the courtroom. In quick summary I hope to say: “this case involves unjust and illegal weapons of mass destruction, the use of which is a war crime under US and international law, and so our actions were taken to protect a greater good and much higher law than the laws we are accused of violating. Therefore this case should be dismissed immediately.”

At noon, we walked to the courthouse from the Tacoma Catholic Worker. We were led by drums and the traditional chant Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo. We started out with about 20 people carrying banners and signs, and by the time we got to the courthouse, there were about 75 or so people. Elders, native Americans, conservative relatives, young people on skateboards, the Superior of the Jesuit community in Tacoma, friends and folks we didn’t know. Joe Morton was there from Baltimore; Dennis Apel was there from the Beatitude House Catholic Worker in Guadalupe, California. The signs, “Abolish Nuclear Weapons” made clear our hope and plea.

During the morning, Vice President Joe Biden was speaking across the street at the University of Washington campus and so the street had been closed to traffic.  When our colorful and exuberant group got to the closed street, we were told that we couldn’t linger in front of the courthouse. Nevertheless, we gathered there, handed out leaflets, held banners and had a prayer service.

Dottie Krist-Sterbick convened us. We started with Buddhist drumming, and flute music that Denny played. Then John Fuchs, SJ started off with a prayer. I read the first reading, which was the letter of support from Archbishop Tutu, Jude Connelly,  OSF read the second reading from Isaiah 2. James Morgan led us in a song. Joanne Staples, Director of the Tahoma Indian center, gave us a blessing, a smudging. Then Dottie spoke about the need for support leading to the trial. She and Sue Ablao handed out clip boards, and talked to people about support. We ended with a lively song that James wrote. The lyrics are at the bottom of the text.

After the prayer service, there was time to talk with others before we went into the court.

We went into the courthouse realizing that we were walking in the front door, and some of us would likely be accompanied by marshals out the back.


John Fuchs, SJ offered an opening prayer.


Inside the courtroom we were in front of the Chief Magistrate Judge Karen Strombom. The clerk gave each of us a copy of the indictment, a copy of the pretrial recommendations (which included a list of priors, sentences and such) and a letter of support that Margo Shafer had written to Judge Strombom. (Thanks Margo!)

The pretrial report said that we were part of the Plowshares movement, a Catholic social justice organization that opposes nuclear weapons….

The recommendations for all of us were the same, obey all laws, don’t go on the navy base, don’t meet or talk with any codefendants or witnesses.

The first thing the judge did was have us sit at the defense table, in this order.  Steve, Susan, Anne, Lynne and Bix.  This was the order that we spoke each time we had a chance to speak.  The judge told us that advisory council had been appointed for each of us.

There was a lengthy Feratta hearing for each of us so the judge could determine if we were able to defend ourselves in court.  The judge told us we were looking at a lot of time, and that the sentences for the charges could run consecutively, not concurrently.

All of us were found able to defend ourselves.

I told the judge that I had 3 motions to bring to the court, one a motion to dismiss that I would like to orally give.  The judge said no.

We did not waive the reading of the Indictment. It’s lengthy, and the US attorney read it and added possible consequences at the end of each charge.

Then we pled.  Each of us had a few words to say that were interpreted as a not guilty plea.

I made a plea for the abolition of nuclear weapons, and for the children of future generations.

Bix made a plea for those who are dying now because of nuclear weapons because of funding going for weapons of mass destruction instead of health care, education, housing, employment and nutrition, and for those dying because of the uranium mining cycle connected to nuclear weapons.

Lynne called “for the end of all wars, and an end to the threat of nuclear war.”

Then the judge moved to the the topic of conditions of release.  The US Attorney got up to speak, and said that since they were defending ourselves, and would have to speak together to plan the trial, he would retract that condition from the PR bond.

Steve was the first to speak.  No, he could not sign the bond.  We have been out, roaming around, for 11 months.  His word is enough, he will be here for the trial. His conscience is his guide, we are about turning swords into plowshares.

The judge then asked if he was ready to sign the bond. When she finally understood that Steve was not going to sign it, she thought for a minute and asked if he would sign saying only that he received it. Steve agreed, and the judge wrote at the bottom of the form and made a line for a signature.

So it went with each of us.  This was a surprise to me, as my limited experience in court is that if you don’t sign the PR bond, you are immediately cuffed and held.

I tried again to bring up the motion to dismiss, and the judge said that she couldn’t hear it or rule on it, but I could file the motions with the clerk. After the arraignment was over, I went to the clerk’s office, and filed a Motion to Immediately Dismiss Charges and Memo in Support, a Motion for Waiver of Conflict, and a Motion for Discovery.

The arraignment lasted at least an hour and a half..

Bix and his stand-by attorney asked for discovery, none of which had been given to us.

Trial date set Dec 7, all motions due by October 29, pretrial conference November 22. Judge Benjamin H. Settle is our judge.

Click here to view a slideshow of more photographs from the day’s events.

Susan can be reached at 443-602-0464
Thanks to Leonard Eiger for photographs.

One Response

  1. Susan,
    I just read your biographical entry for the Chatham High ’61 reunion book. It was very moving and inspiring. I have a nephew who just returned (safely, thank God) from his second tour in the Gulf and a new grandson. Through the efforts of brave people such as you and your colleagues, perhaps my grandson will never have to participate in the kind of madness our nephew just endured. Thank you.
    Eileen Langan Sullivan
    CHS ’61

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