Judge refuses to allow experts to testify at protesters' trial

March 14, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County Circuit Court judge denied yesterday a request by Philip F. Berrigan and three co-defendants to allow experts to testify at their trial on the legality of their arrests Dec. 19 at a Maryland Air National Guard base in Essex.

Judge James T. Smith Jr. ruled that Berrigan, 76, of Baltimore; Susan Crane, 56, also of Baltimore; the Rev. Stephen Kelly, 50, a Jesuit priest from New York City; and Elizabeth Walz, 33, a Dominican nun from Philadelphia, may not have experts testify on laws regarding the use of depleted uranium in military weapons.

The defendants are scheduled to go on trial next week. They are accused of cutting through a fence at the Middle River facility and causing $100,000 in damage to two A-10 Thunderbolt jet fighters by punching through their exteriors with hammers, pounding on the landing gear of one jet and on the engine parts of another.

The four have said the jets fire shells made with depleted uranium, a product they say is banned by international treaties because of its effect on the environment.

Smith dismissed charges of sabotage against the defendants in a brief hearing yesterday. But he refused to dismiss charges of malicious destruction of property, conspiracy to destroy government property and trespassing.

If convicted, the four could face maximum terms of six years and 90 days in prison. Crane, who also is charged with second-degree assault in the incident, faces an additional 10-year term.

Jonathan L. Katz, the lawyer for the four defendants at the hearing, said that experts would have testified about the dangers posed by depleted uranium and about international laws that prohibit its use.

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