MANCHESTER - It took a Hillsborough County Superior Court North jury an hour Friday to find three members of Occupy Manchester guilty of criminal trespass in Veterans Park on Oct. 19, 2011.
The trio, Elizabeth Edwards, Elizabeth Grunewald and Matthew Richards, had refused to leave the park at the 11 p.m. curfew and were arrested by Manchester Police.
Defense attorney Barbara Keshen had sought a verdict of innocent, putting forward the concept of jury nullification. It's now law in New Hampshire that even if the state has provided evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, jurors can find defendants innocent if in the jury's judgment it is a "fair result".
But the jury sided with the prosecutor, who defined jury nullification as: "It's okay to break the law."
The three were sentenced to 10 days in jail, deferred for one year of good behavior and completion of 90 hours of community service.
Keshen had argued that the Occupy Manchester participants were exercising their Constitutional rights of peaceable assembly and dialogue for redress of grievances.
Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Charlene Dulac suggested to jurors that if they didn't find the defendants guilty, it would lead to the parks becoming centers for late night or overnight drinking, drugging and camping, with violence likely.
The three defendants, part of a much larger group that had been camping in Victory and later Veterans parks since Oct. 15, were engaging in political discussions and welcoming anyone who wanted to join them, offering food and other necessities.
Manchester Police Capt. Robert Cunha, who was the department's point person in dealing with the Occupy participants, testified they had moved temporarily to Victory Park so the department's Footrace for the Fallen could take over Veterans Park, how they had left Victory Park cleaner than it had been in years, and how they were respectful, reasonable and cooperative.
Cunha said the members of Occupy even offered to line up for police arriving at the park at 11 p.m. on Oct. 19, one line to accept citations and one line for arrests.
Keshen described the gathering in the park as an opportunity for people "to express their views and create a community."
She said they had a right, under the First Amendment, to "peaceably assemble to petition for the redress of grievances."
In Dulac's view, the issue was simple - the defendants were arrested as a result of the choices they made. "They were arrested for violating the criminal trespass law, " she said. "This wasn't part of the movement." email@example.com