“I don’t think you live in hope; I live in hope” With those words, Mary Dennis Lentsch fended off the cross examination of Assistant District Attorney Jeff Theodore in a March 4 hearing in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee. Theodore was frustrated, for the moment at least, in his attempt to build a case for his motion that the defendants from last July’s action at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, should not be allowed to present their full defense to the jury.
The government wants the defense limited to a discussion of the act of trespass—no mention of nuclear weapons, the production of bombs at Y12, their faith or their “good motive.” Theodore pounded away at Mary Dennis, declaring over and over that this was no different than her case eight years ago. Finally the judge stepped in: “She’s already said it’s similar,” he chided Theodore. “She’s hoping for a different outcome.”
Whether there will be a different outcome or not remains to be seen.
Mary Dennis testifed with her co-defendant Beth Rosdatter, and they were joined by Professor Charles Moxley, author of Nuclear Weapons and International Law in the Post Cold War World. The government had argued that Judge Guyton should not allow Moxley to testify, but Francis Lloyd argued for the defense that international law was an evolving subject and the only way the judge could know the current status would be to hear an expert. So Moxley traveled from New York for the hearing.
Moxley’s testimony was clear and rock solid. He noted that the International Court of Justice had found both the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons contrary to international law and common humanitarian law. As for possession, Moxley said, in the context of a policy of deterrence, possession was clearly a threat to use. From there it was a small step to understand that the manufacture of weapons whose use would be illegal should itself be illegal.
Judge Guyton took the matter under advisement and said he would issue a written ruling later. He gave no indication of his leaning, but we imagine it unlikely that he will permit extensive testimony in court. Still, he listened carefully and remained engaged throughout the day’s hearing.
The jury trial is scheduled to begin May 9.
Mary Dennis Lentsch, Charles Moxley and Beth Rosdatter address the media outside the federal courthouse in Knoxville, TN on March 4, 2011.