March 5, 1998

by Julian Heicklen

Smart on Crime & Centre County Libertarian Party

Hello! Thanks for coming out. Two weeks ago I announced that I would not smoke a marijuana cigarette if I could obtain a fair, impartial, and speedy trial before a jury of my peers. Five of us had been arrested, and our preliminary hearings were scheduled for March 25, 1998.

Andrew Burke and I requested that our preliminary hearings be moved to March 4, 1998. Andy's request was granted, but my preliminary hearing was moved to March 18, 1998. I appealed my hearing date on the grounds that my 6th Amendment right to a speedy trial was being violated.

I wrote to the Court Administrator, Maxine Ishler, on February 24, 1998, indicating that I was available on February 25, 1998, after 2:00 PM; on February 26, 1998, after 2:30 PM; all day on February 27 or March 2 or 3, 1998; on March 4, 1998, after 2:00 PM; and on March 5, 1998, after 2:30 PM.

I wrote that I would appreciate being assigned a specific time of day (within 15 minutes). I will be accompanied by a video camera man and my own court stenographer, both of whom I will be paying by the hour. In addition, it is likely that many spectators and press people will be present in the courtroom. Therefore it would be a courtesy to the others that have preliminary hearings that day, if mine was scheduled late in the day.

In a letter of February 27, 1998, Ms. Ishler informed me that the date of my preliminary hearing would remain at March 18, 1998. All preliminary hearings are scheduled for 1:00. Rule 27 of the Pennsylvania Criminal rules of Court prohibits cameras in the Courtroom.

On March 2, 1998, Andy Burke called the Court Administrator to find the exact time of his hearing on March 4, 1998. He was informed that his hearing was not rescheduled for March 4, but would be held on March 25. He received no other notice of the shift back to March 25. Had he not called the Court Administrator, he would have appeared on March 4 for nothing. Furthermore Andy and I were notified that the earliest possible date for the pretrial conference was May 26, 1998.

Clearly we are being denied speedy trials. When I was arrested in California, the prosecutor could not prepare for trial within 30 days, so the judge dismissed the complaint.

The prohibition on cameras in the courtroom denies us the right to a fair trial. It means that we will have no visual record to present on appeal.

The procedure of assigning everyone a time of 1:00 PM for his or her hearing indicates that the Court already considers us criminals undeserving of common courtesy. Some of the defendants will have to wait until 4:00 or 4:30 before their cases are called. This indicates that we will not receive an impartial trial.

The Centre County Court of Common Pleas does not comply with the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, we must take our protest into the streets. Smoke at will!

I ask that no-one under 18 years old smoke marijuana. We appreciate your support, but if minors smoke, it will hurt our cause. If arrested, give only your name and address. Go limp and make the officers carry you away from the demonstration. Plead not guilty and ask for a speedy, jury trial.

If you are attacked by either police or bystanders, go into the fetal position, and use your hands to protect your head. Under no circumstances, even if provoked, use violence. Thank you for your cooperation.