Lawyer says Baltimore jury affirmed first amendment rights with swift verdict
STEPHEN JANIS, TRNN: Hello, my name is Stephen Janis. I’m a reporter for the Real News Network in Baltimore. I’m outside the city circuit court in Baltimore, Maryland shortly after the trial of Alkebulan Marcus, who was just acquitted for his role in protesting near the Freddie Gray uprising. It may seem surprising to people that prosecutors have pursued cases during one of the most violent years in Baltimore’s history, but that’s exactly what happened. We were here to cover the trial and the aftermath of what happened to this young man from Philadelphia as he faced the prospect of jail time for simply exercising his civil rights. You, you’ve been acquitted. How do you feel about that? Just give us your response. ALKEBULAN MARCUS: Well I mean, I feel good. I get to go home, hang out with my friends, with my girl. You know, who’s pregnant, so that was also a big concern for me. It was like, how am I going to take care of my kid? You know, like, how [am I] bounce back. But I, you know, I had faith in the jury. The jury came out–. JANIS: The jury was very quick in their decision. What do you think influenced their decision, in terms of your case? MARCUS: I think the fact that everybody knew that it was an unlawful arrest. It’s just the state proved nothing. The state had nothing to back it up. The state didn’t even answer their questions. Gordon here did a hell of a job. He asked at both angles. He gave them what they wanted. You know, he’s just like, they violated our rights. It was like, blatantly–they would have found us guilty, or found me guilty, it would be like, they could arrest anyone, for any reason they want. JANIS: So you in your closing argument emphasized you were trying to send a message. Talk about that. J. WYNDAL GORDON: Yeah. I believe that the prosecution of Mr. Marcus was an attempt to suppress free speech. I mean, this case wasn’t really about whether or not he failed to obey a lawful command, or whether or not he interfered with an arrest. This was about the content of his speech, that he was protesting police misconduct, and that rubbed the government the wrong way. And so he was pursued vigorously in order to obtain a conviction. And jail time, mind you. They wanted at least ten days of jail from him. So you know, this is a great victory for freedom of speech. This is a great victory for the First Amendment, and I’m very thankful for the jury, for them coming to a very quick decision in a case that I did not feel was meritorious of a three-day prosecution. JANIS: What was a crucial piece of evidence [inaud.] the trial when you thought, you know, their case fell apart or when the jury really understood what this was about? GORDON: Well, the crucial piece of, the lack of evidence, was that they had no recording of this reasonable order that was allegedly given by police. No one heard it. It was almost like it was a dog whistle that only police officers heard. There were many people in the crowds who didn’t respond to it. Even by their own admission they said when they gave the order, no one responded to it. Which leans more to the fact that the order was never given. And then when they arrested Mr. Morgan, Malachi Morgan, for–we don’t even know. To this day the state has never provided a reasonable basis for which Morgan Malachi was arrested. And of course you have the right to resist an unlawful arrest, and people who come to the aid of someone being unlawfully arrested have the right to do that as well. And so that’s, those were some of the things we argued in front of the jury. JANIS: So they had a three-day, or a two or three-day trial without any evidence? GORDON: Well, they didn’t have any credible evidence. You know, in terms of this reasonable order, like, they didn’t have any evidence of that. This was supposed to be something that was recorded. But they failed to produce a recording of it. And so they were just basically trying to win this case based upon the say-so of the police, whereby the jury is here to determine facts by way of proof. They could prove that they had given a reasonable order. JANIS: Do you think the judge was trying to–I mean, the jury was trying to send a message of sorts? GORDON: I think that they very well were. I think that the First Amendment right is something that we all hold sacrosanct. And I think that whenever you trammel upon it or infringe upon it I think we should expect these types of verdicts every time. JANIS: And [inaud.] says they were a little upset with the Real News, the fact that you talked to, or your client talked to the Real–what did the judge say? GORDON: Well, the judge kind of cautioned my client about discussing these matters with the Real News. And that’s why we, you know, we really didn’t discuss the facts of it. But he’s free to talk about how he felt about it. And he still feels the same way about it. And so that didn’t affect his case. He didn’t testify. He didn’t need to testify, to be honest with you. And he wasn’t going to testify. So the judge had thought that we had discussed it after, after our lunch break. But you and I, as you know, we had our discussion before we went to lunch. Or just after we broke for lunch. So at any rate, it was much ado about nothing. I mean, we’re professionals. I’m a professional. I know what to and what not to allow my client to testify to or to give statements upon. And I think the way he feels about this situation is something that’s very important and newsworthy. I mean, people need to understand that this is, this case caused a lot of mental angst, a lot of anxiety, and a lot of emotional distress. And he deserves to have, again, under the First Amendment the right to vent his frustrations. And I think that’s what he did. JANIS: Well, he was facing a criminal record regardless, right? GORDON: He was absolutely facing a criminal record. In fact, he was looking at jail time. I have no doubt in my mind that had he been convicted of anything he would have served some jail time, at least ten days. So we’re just happy that the verdict came out the way that we expected it to, and right on to the First Amendment. Right on for the First Amendment. JANIS: Thank you very much. Thank you so much for talking–.
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