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    J.A.I.L. News Journal ____________________________________________________ Los Angeles, California October 9, 2001
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 9, 2001
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       J.A.I.L. News Journal
      ____________________________________________________
      Los Angeles, California                                           October 9, 2001 
       
      Slay The Messengers!
       

      Questions raised after 2 jailed for contempt
      posted 09/28/01

      By MICHAEL WERNER
      michael.werner@...

      SARASOTA COUNTY -- Kathie Lockhart sobbed while guards led her 17-year-old son Mike, bound in shackles and handcuffs, into court.

      In a nearby room, John Rhoads waited anxiously for the proceedings in 12th Circuit Court Judge Robert McDonald's courtroom to begin.

      Rhoads, 19, reflected on the night before, spent locked in a jail cell with men accused of rape, drug dealing and other crimes, and shuddered.

      Twenty-four hours earlier, he and his friend Mike testified in McDonald's courtroom as witnesses. This day, Sept. 7, they would stand before the judge to fight for their freedom and question a judicial system that sent them to jail for telling their side of the story.

      Some attorneys also question whether the surprising turn of events for these young men from North Port could impact the court system itself. They question a judge's ability to lock up witnesses he believes to have lied, when no proof exists, and many are troubled that the young men were not allowed an extended proceeding with representatives to argue their side.

      Some attorneys wonder whether the judge's decision could deter other witnesses from testifying. According to court documents, on the day McDonald held Lockhart and Rhoads in contempt, two other juveniles entered pleas in their cases because their witnesses were apprehensive about telling their version of the story.

      Holding an individual in contempt of court is not uncommon. Holding a witness in contempt of court for perjury, without any evidence and without the benefit of a proceeding, is rare. ....

      McDonald ... brought Lockhart and Rhoads back into the courtroom. According to court records, he accused the two of perjury and asked if either could show any reason why they should not be held in contempt of court.

      Neither did, so McDonald sentenced Rhoads to 30 days in jail. Lockhart, a juvenile, received five days in a juvenile detention center. Vowell got probation.

      If judges can hold witnesses in contempt for perjury without evidence, testimony will be affected, said Lockhart's attorney, Brett McIntosh.

      "It's a scary proposition to know that if you testify about what you saw, you could be yanked away and sent to jail," McIntosh said. "If this begins to happen on a regular basis, witnesses could be reluctant to testify."

      McIntosh and Rhoads' attorney, Cassandra Gorton, is appealing the judge's order to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland. A ruling was not imminent. Until the court hears their appeal, McDonald has stayed the pair's sentences.

      "These boys went to court as witnesses," Gorton said. "They didn't have lawyers; there was no one to speak up on their behalf. ....

      McDonald was not required to grant Lockhart and Rhoads a jury trial because their sentences ran for fewer than six months. However, other Florida courts have required extended court proceedings for witnesses found in contempt for perjury. ....

      "I think about it every day, and it scares me," Rhoads said. "Those two days were the worst experience of my life. I never want to go back there again."

      Rhoads and Lockhart both question the logic of the judge's decision, to send them to jail and give Vowell probation.

       

      Comments: "No person shall...be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;" Fifth Amendment, U.S. Constitution.
       
      Here, Lockhart and Rhoads were subpoenaed by the court to testify. They had no counsel to advise or to defend them. They were accused as witnesses of perjury and sentenced without due process or evidence establishing their guilt, and now face jail time.
       
      We are told, "McDonald was not required to grant Lockhart and Rhoads a jury trial because their sentences ran for fewer than six months." Is jail a deprivation of one's liberty? You better believe it.
       
      No jury trial? "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury..." Sixth Amendment, U.S. Constitution.
       
      Tell me, pray tell, what does "all" mean in the context of "In all criminal prosecutions?" Does it mean except those sentenced less than six months? How much is six months out of your life worth? Am I crazy, or am I somehow misunderstanding the word "ALL" in the Constitution? I make no claim to be an English Professor, but I thought I understood the word "all." Somehow, the courts do not have the same understanding of "all" that I have.
       
      It is my opinion that when the word "all" is at issue before the Special Grand Juries created by J.A.I.L., those citizens will have a different understanding of "all" than these judges hold. Even a man accused of a seat belt violation, no insurance, or jay-walking is entitled to a jury trial. Isn't that what "all" means, and what our Founding Fathers intended? 
       
      "He [King George III] has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution ... For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:"       Declaration of Independence
       
                                                                           -Ron Branson
       
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