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Litton trials continue

Lee Gold — April 1984

Three joint trials and several individual trials of demonstrators arrested for trespassing at Litton Systems (Canada) have now been” completed. A fourth group trial, to be conducted in French, is scheduled for April 2.

The arrests leading to the trials took place last November, during the Week of Resistance and Remembrance, when several hundred peace activists gathered at Litton’s plant, just outside Toronto, to protest the firm’s production of the cruise guidance system’.

The first group trial, the largest ever held in Canada, was completed in February, and was reported in the March edition of The Peace Calendar. The other two group trials were held in March, and involved women peace activists and people expressing solidarity with the people of the Third World.

Taken together, the trials were characterized by a pronounced lack of consistency in both the procedures followed and the sentences handed down by the different justices of the peace.

For example, on March 7, Justice of the Peace Robert Kashuba sentenced one Litton trespasser to two years’ probation and fined him $500, after a trial which lasted no more than five minutes. An hour earlier, Justice of the Peace Bernard Gottlieb had given the defendants in the Women’s Trial suspended sentences and six months’ probation for the same offense, after a trial which lasted a week.

Unlike the justice of the peace who conducted the first group trial (see TPC, March 1984), the justice of the peace for the Women’s Trial permitted all expert. witnesses to testify, including Sr. Rosalie Bertell.

Sr. Bertell stated that 16 million people had already been damaged by preparations for nuclear war since 1945. In fact she argued that World War III has already begun, and that it claims 200 more people every day. .

The defendants’ case during the Women’s Trial was presented by a rotating council of women who shared responsibility for their defense with the aid of lawyer Marion Cohen. With arguments buttressed by expert testimony from sociologist Dorothy Smith, the women stressed their exclusion from the decision-making process and the necessity for direct action :m issues which affect their lives.

The women also spoke of the, ways in which masculine thinking treats people as numbers rather than as related human beings, and allows for the preparation for and the waging of war. They spoke of being tranquilized and silenced for speaking the truth, and insisted on their right to be heard.

The Third World Solidarity Trial, which took place the week after the Women’s Trial, was conducted in one day, with everyone representing him- or herself. The defendants at this trial argued that they had gone to Litton on November 16 to act as proxies for all those murdered and tortured in Third World countries and to protest the direct involvement of a Litton subsidiary which is building military bases in Honduras.

The defense at this trial was united in its condemnation of Litton Industries as an example of of a war-making corporation that profits from death and exploitation of the Third World, and acts as an arm of US imperialist foreign policy. No formal legal arguments were presented. Justice of the Peace Cummings found all off the Third World Solidarity defendants guilty and fined them the sum of $50. .

Five Queen’s Park Peace Camp defendants were denied a joint trial by Justice of the Peace Kashuba. Two defendants were removed from the courtroom and the trials conducted rapidly in their absence. The only defendant who presented his reasons for being on Litton property “to make a non-violent citizen’s arrest of President Ronald Keating” was told that his defense was “trite,” was fined $300 and was placed on probation for two years. In all other trials, the sincerity of the defendants’ beliefs was acknowledged along with their motivation for a safer world. The verdict and sentences handed down in these five individual cases are being appealed.

Each group trial treated the charge in its own way, and handled the courtroom situation differently. The cumulative effect of the testimonies was to make the charge seem quite irrelevant. In fact, none of the defendants denied the charge. Instead, they used the trials as an opportunity to publicize Litton’s role in the nuclear arms race, and to challenge the legal system that sanctions this role.

In the words of one defendant, “jumping over that fence (onto Litton property) was the most conscious decision I’ve ever made in my life. I wanted people to know how I feel about private property. when that property is owned by murderers. Murderers forfeit certain rights. I was trespassing on the myth that Litton has the right to private property.”