Pace e Bene on the trial of the Creech 14:
What started out as an open-and shut case of trespass in Judge William D. Jansen's Las Vegas courtroom yesterday soon turned into a day-long reflection on the right of citizens to break the law in order to uphold a higher one.
Fr. Louie Vitale, OFM and thirteen others - including Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly and Fr. John Dear - were on trial for entering Creech Air Force Base in April 2009.
They had gone to the base to dialogue with soldiers who direct drone bombings from video monitors in the Nevada desert. Instead, they were arrested.
The judge allowed the defense to put on a series of witnesses who soon engaged both the judge and prosecutor in a powerful conversation on the appropriateness of civil disobedience.
These witnesses included Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, retired colonel and State Department Ann Wright (who established the US embassy in Kabul and who resigned from the department when the US invaded Iraq), and Bill Quigley, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
The judge listened closely to the arguments and acknowledged that many important issues had been raised.
Unexpectedly, he told the packed courtroom that he would take all the testimony under advisement and would take some time to carefully consider all the questions involved in balancing the tension between law and justice.
After setting the date for January 27, 2011, Judge Jansen left the bench and, with a smile, said, "Peace to you!"
The defendants and supporters stood up and applauded. As Fr. John Dear said afterwards, "It seemed the judge began to change before our eyes."