Jury selection to begin for Y-12 break-in defendants

Jury selection to begin for Y-12 break-in defendants

Posted: Updated:
Supporters attended the Festival of Hope Sunday at the Church of the Savior in West Knoxville. Supporters attended the Festival of Hope Sunday at the Church of the Savior in West Knoxville.
The support was also evident at a weekly Sunday night vigil held in front of the Y-12 Complex. The support was also evident at a weekly Sunday night vigil held in front of the Y-12 Complex.
The turnout was so large, there was a heavier than normal police presence. The turnout was so large, there was a heavier than normal police presence.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Preparations for the trial of three peace activists who broke into an Oak Ridge weapons plant last summer get underway Monday with jury selection in Knoxville.

Jury selection is likely to take one day. Attorneys are expecting a pool of 70 potential jurors.

Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed will go on trial to face charges in U.S. Federal Court.

The trio have pleaded not guilty, but they admit cutting through chain link fences before spray-painting messages and hurling human blood against a wall of a building at the Y-12 National Security Complex, the nation's storage center for bomb-grade uranium.

They face several charges, including sabotage, which under the Sabotage Act carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. They are charged with aiding and abetting each other, with intent to injure, interfere with, and obstruct the national defense of the United States.

Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed claim their actions were necessary because nuclear weapons "threaten the well-being of our entire planet."

Defense attorneys suffered a setback in their case when U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar ruled the defendants cannot use the necessity defense.

Judge Thapar also ruled international law and treaties regarding nuclear weapons could not be used as a defense strategy.

Thapar also ruled an expert witnesses like former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark couldn't testify during the trial. 

People from all over the country gathered Sunday in East Tennessee to show their support for the three protestors.

Supporters attended the Festival of Hope at the Church of the Savior in West Knoxville.

The event was organized by members of Transform Now Plowshares and the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance.

"The idea is we want to have a time before the trial starts to actually talk why the folks did what they did and what they hoped to get out of it," said Shelly Wasomb, a member of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance.

The Y-12 protesters say there's been a growing legion of support for their crusade against nuclear weapons.

"There is so much energy here and each one represents hundred others who are longing for the same turn of affairs," said Sister Megan Rice.

That support was also evident at a weekly Sunday night vigil held in front of the Y-12 Complex. The turnout was so large, there was a heavier than normal police presence.

"There are people all over the country, and people will be arriving all for the world in support," said Ellen Barfield, of the Transform Now Plowshares. 

"We firmly believe we did the right thing, and the legal thing," said Greg Boertje-Obed.

Thapar has yet to making a ruling on whether Ann Wright can testify as an expert witness.  

Wright is a former U.S. Diplomat and retired U.S. Army Colonial. She resigned as a diplomat to protest the United States involvement in the Iraq war.

Wright is the last hope for an expert witness.

"These three defendants should be a given award for pointing out that these terrible weapons are very unsecured by our own government," Wright said.

The protesters will be allowed to talk about motives for the break-in, something federal prosecutors previously tried to limit.

"We believe we can therefore speak some truth about why we did it," said Boertje-Obed.


6 News reporters Mike Krafcik and Drew Gardner contributed to this report.

Powered by WorldNow

1306 N. Broadway NE Knoxville,
Tennessee 37917

Telephone: 865.637.NEWS(6397)
Fax: 865.525.4091
Email: newsroom@wate.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Young Broadcasting of Knoxville, Inc. A Media General Company.